The Jefferson - Hemings ControversyHistory on trial Main Page

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Annette Gordon Reed: Thomas Jefferson's African American Children
Annette Gordon-Reed's 2008 National Book Awards Acceptance Speech
Annette Gordon-Reed, 2010 MacArthur Fellow
Barton, David. "Jefferson Hemings Affair Was Liberal Plot."
Undated excerpt from television show in which conservative Barton suggests a liberal conspiracy against Jefferson.
Barton, David. "Lie #1: Thomas Jefferson Fathered Sally Hemings' Children." The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You've Always Believed about Thomas Jefferson. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012.
Barton thoroughly examines three categories of evidence against Jefferson, shows each erroneous, and concludes that Jefferson was not in a relationship with Hemings: DNA, oral tradition, and the charges published in Jefferson's day.
Barton, David. Thomas Jefferson did NOT father children by Sally Hemings. Interview on Bryan Fischer's Focal Point radio show. May 11, 2012.
Based on a chapter in Barton's Jefferson Lies book.
Gordon-Reed, Annette. "Jefferson's Vision; No president had a more complicated relationship with issues of race, but he deserves credit for paving the way for a black man to reach the White House." Newsweek 21 January 2009.
On inaugural night: "As any historian will say, it is much too soon to know how much, or even whether, 2008 resembles 1800. But we can say that on Nov. 4, American voters said something about who they wished to be. They repudiated conventional wisdom about what was possible and expressed a desire to forge a new identity, discarding an old, confining one. Obama saw this yearning in the electorate, made a bet on it and won. Americans were willing to put on a new face for the world. That we have had the chance to move forward in this way is due, in part, to the Founders' vision. And, I will say it, Jefferson's vision. Whether he specifically dreamed of Barack Obama or not, whether he would have thrown himself into the ocean at the prospect of President Obama, he along with others put forth a set of ideas that helped put us on this path. Over the years countless Americans, black and white, heralded and unheralded, have struggled, and continue to struggle, to give meaning to the promise of America. It is no coincidence that the first nonwhite leader of the Western world should come from this country. The way we have arrived at this moment in history is truly the result of a dream."
Gordon-Reed, Annette. The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2008.
Gordon-Reed, Annette. "Did Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson Love Each Other?" American Heritage 58.5 (2008).
Gordon-Reed explores the nature of the relationship between Jefferson and Hemings. It is established that a relationship did indeed exist, and she explores the public’s need to determine whether there was love in that relationship. Gordon-Reed discusses the social climate of this time period, including the implications of Jefferson’s relationship with his wife in comparison to his relationship with Hemings, who was his legal property to do with what he wished. The issue of rape is also discussed in terms of whether or not their relationship could be considered consensual based on their legal relationship. Gordon-Reed discusses the available evidence and subsequent difficulty in determining the absence or existence of love and ultimately comes to the conclusion that the facts that can be accepted are "that Hemings and Jefferson lived together over many years and had seven children, four of whom lived to adulthood. Jefferson kept his promises to Hemings, and their offspring got a four-decade head start on emancipation, making the most of it by leading prosperous and stable lives," and that this is as close to love as possible given Jefferson and Hemings’s complicated social relationship.
Gordon-Reed, Annette. "Thomas Jefferson: Was the Sage a Hypocrite?" Time 5 July 2004.,9171,994568-1,00.html
"The interest in Jefferson's racial views, long the subject of scrutiny, has reached a crescendo in our time. As Americans attempt to build a more egalitarian, multiracial future, we crave a better understanding of what the man credited with most eloquently expressing the American creed felt about race. What did Jefferson think about black people? How does his relationship with Sally Hemings complete our picture of him? How should we, in a more racially enlightened era, interpret what we know about his thoughts and actions?"
The Hemingses of Monticello, Parts 1-7
Lecture by Annette Gordon-Reed about her book and project at Monticello.
The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family. Speech by Annette Gordon-Reed on her 2008 book of the same title at the Library of Congress. Date unknown but uploaded by the LOC in March 2009.
Hyland, William G. Long Journey with Mr. Jefferson: The Life of Dumas Malone. Washington: Potomac Books, 2013.
Contains a chapter on the controversy.
Hyland, William G. In Defense of Thomas Jefferson: The Sally Hemings Sex Scandal. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2009.
The title says it all. Rear-guard attack on the pro-liaison position predominating since the DNA results. Advances Randolph Jefferson as the likely father of Hemings’s children.
Hyland, William, Jr. "The Politicization of a Founding Father." Huffington Post 13 April 2010.
On Jefferson's birthday, Hyland vigorously denies the Jefferson-Hemings liaison: "Although the Sally rumor survives, no reasonable, sensible person hearing all the evidence, not just rank speculation, has ever declared his or her belief in it."
Turner, Robert F. "The Jefferson Hemings Controversy." Speech at a press conference held by the Jefferson-Hemings Scholars Commission, Washington, November 26, 2011.
On the occasion of the 2011 publication of the Scholars Commission report edited by Turner.
Turner, Robert F. "Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings." Speech December 3rd, 2011, at the Stonebridge Center in Natural Bridge, Virginia.
Turner headed the Scholars Commission of the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society, the group that studied the Jefferson-Hemings controversy subsequent to the DNA tests and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation report that found the relationship credible. To the contrary, the Scholars Commission's conclusion was "not proven." The occasion for the speech was the 2011 book publication of the Scholars Commission's report.
Turner, Robert F. The Jefferson-Hemings Controversy: Report of the Scholars Commission. Durham: Carolina Academic Press, 2011.
Turner chaired the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society's Scholars Commission, whose report in 2001 contradicted the belief fostered by the interpretation of the DNA results by the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation (2000) that Jefferson probably fathered all of Sally Hemings's children. Their full report was only available on the web at that time and, unlike the TJMF report, soon not generally available at all, a fact that almost certainly diminished its impact on the direction of the controversy at that time. Turner publishes the full report here a decade later with such significant additional material of his own in an "Editor's Postscript" as an account of the circumstances around the original press conference; a sketch of voting by the Monticello Association; his interaction with the Thomas Jefferson Foundation; reaction by scholars Annette Gordon-Reed, Joseph Ellis, Henry Wiencek, Steven Corneliussen, Helen Leary (in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly special issue), Thomas Jones, Joyce Appleby, Christopher Hitchens, and the contributors to the William and Mary Quarterly ; as well as thoughts on the relation of the controversy to the cultural war caused by the rise of multiculturalism in American thought.
Walker, Clarence E. Mongrel Nation: The America Begotten by Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. Charlottesville: U of Virginia P, 2009.
Walker makes it very apparent that he has no doubt that there was a relationship between Jefferson and Hemings. The intention of his book is to "review the relationship in a larger, world context" (6). Interracial relationships were very common throughout the world around this time, even in America. The reason Walker says that this particular relationship was such a scandal was partially because of the roots of racial tension between blacks and whites in America from the beginning: "In focusing on black and white in this essay, I do not mean to give the impression that race in America has always been reducible to that binarism. Quite the opposite. But historically the central tension in American history has been between these two groups. The Jefferson-Hemings liaison is one of the issues that sits at the heart of what I refer to as the racial tension between black and white Americans" (7). In essence, the Jefferson-Hemings relationship was a kind of "poster child" for the racial tension. Walker wants us to acknowledge that, yes, this relationship changes history, but it is time to stop ignoring it: "That is, I am suggesting that at the moment of its creation the nation was not a white racial space but a mixed-race one, in which Jefferson and Hemings, as a mixed-race couple, rather than George and Martha Washington, should be considered the founding parents of the North American republic" (2).