The Narratives of History in “Killadelphia”: Part V

Matthew Teutsch
6 min readAug 19, 2022

Over the past few posts, I’ve been examining Jupiter Evans’ and Sally Hemings’ narrative arcs in Rodney Barnes and Jason Shawn Alexander’s Killadelphia. Specifically, I’ve been looking at the ways that the histories of Jupiter and Sally get filtered through white perspectives and the counters to the white perspective through Jupiter’s telling of his own history. We do not see Sally’s perspective directly, and we do not get a lot of her perspective from Jupiter. However, Abigail provides us with a detailed discussion of how she views her relationship with Sally, and I began looking at this in the last post. Today, I want to finish up this discussion by looking at the ways that Abigail, while claiming to free Sally, actually continues to subjugate and oppress her.

As Jupiter runs towards Abigail to kill her, she begins to reflect “on better times” as she looks at a tattoo on her arm and then closes her eyes. For Abigail, it was a time of happiness and love, and we see her moving backwards towards that time as Jupiter moves towards her. In the final panel of the sequence, we see Jupiter’s silhouette on the left, racing towards Abigail and we see, on the right, a closeup on Abigail’s face, her eyes closed, thinking back in time. Her face looks serene, as if resigned to her fate. She thinks about, as she narrates, a time she was “in love.” A few pages later, we find out that her love was Sally Hemings.

Since John was taking a sabbatical, Abigail felt that her and Sally “had all the time in the world” to express their love for another. We see them enjoying themselves at a carnival in the twentieth century, getting matching tattoos, kissing on the Ferris wheel, and more. Abigail reflects on how Sally felt “tentative” at first but began to open up. Their love “strengthened, continuing to defy the era’s mindset.” It’s not clear here if Abigail is referring to interracial intimacy, their lesbianism, or both. We don’t see any outward expressions from others condemning the relationship. However, that does not necessarily matter. What matters is that Abigail is thinking about the ways that others view them together, even when that love, in Abigail's view gets strengthened through the adversity.

As we see a silhouette of Sally and Abigail kissing on a Ferris wheel, Abigail confesses, “The love I felt…

Matthew Teutsch

Here, you will find reflections on African American, American, and Southern Literature, American popular culture and politics, and pedagogy.