1) I haven't been able to stop thinking about the documentary [Jefferson's Blood] we saw in the last class -- particularly the deep emotional reactions of everyone involved. Not only do we have a severe racial divide in society, but here is a FAMILY, for pete's sake, who can't even manage to build bridges. But it gets even worse. How about the grandfather who was sitting on the fence in a very personal way because he was a mixture of black and white . . . He couldn't even find a way to heal this rift inside HIMSELF without it destroying him. That, to me, is the most telling statement of all about how destructive this issue of racial separation is.
Vivien Steele, Lehigh University
2) The argument for Jefferson is that history is the history of the human mind, of ideas. Jefferson was, preeminently, the mind of the Revolution that succeeded. It resulted in the birth of the first modern nation, the nation that in the 20th century saved the world from tyranny. Jefferson expressed the American idea: political and social pluralism; government of limited, delegated and enumerated powers; the fecundity of freedom. He expressed it not only in stirring cadences, but also in the way he lived, as statesman, scientist, architect, educator. Jeffersonianism is what free men believe. Jefferson is what a free person looks like--confident, serene, rational, disciplined, temperate, tolerant, curious. In fine, Jefferson is the Person of the Millennium.
3) Tonight, at Monticello, there is a turning point of sorts. At a private dinner to kick off the Jefferson commemoration, the guest list includes a tall, dignified olive-skinned lawyer named Robert H. Cooley III. Cooley, 53, is a direct descendant of Sally Hemings, and claims to be a descendant of Jefferson too. Daniel P. Jordan, executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, emphasizes that Cooley's presence doesn't amount to an admission of anything. It is just an acknowledgment, he says, that the history of Monticello is not complete without considering the history of its slaves. And yet surely, something momentous happens tonight: The white descendants of Thomas Jefferson for the first time will be breaking bread with a black man who says he is their kin.
4) To judge from the first few days of the conference, Jefferson won't get the full Columbus treatment. Whatever Jefferson may have done in his private life, his words are his true legacy. The proclamation of unalienable rights and the equality of human beings has inspired African Americans, women, the disabled and innumerable excluded or downtrodden people. Just as Jefferson's emphasis on rights makes him crucial to liberal movements, his impulse to limit government resonates for conservatives. The words are bigger than the man.
5) Like my peers I was surprised by the importance of race over family [in the Jefferson's Blood documentary]. It is an upsetting American trait that forces people to define themselves by the color of their skin, their religion, or heritage. My last name was brought up in class after watching the documentary. On paper, out of context from my first name and seeing me in person, my name can be tied to Jewish roots or mislabeled as African-American. I've always joked that Morgan Freeman is my long-lost cousin, but when the multiple associations of my name were brought up with my family, the conversation was anything but funny. My aunt and uncle chose to name my cousin Brianna Freeman. This caused a bit of a scandal within the family because it was believed by just reading her name everyone would assume she was black not Jewish. Other members of the family looked down on the decision. While we should have been celebrating the new addition to the family, instead we were snubbing her within days of her birth. This riff in the family is similar the ones among the Jefferson-Hemings family. Do you define your family by the race they are associated with? I can sympathize with the importance of racial identity, but I still do not think it is right.
Sarah Freeman, Lehigh University
6) The TJHS [Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society] case is, at times, something of an intellectual shell game. Its authors frequently make the point that we lack the critical information necessary to reach a conclusive opinion; they then seize on that lack as proof of their own position. Why, they say, did Sally Hemings not bear a child during prolonged periods when Jefferson was at Monticello? The explanation: there was no affair between Jefferson and Hemings. . . . Rather than confront this issue, the Heritage Society plays the same refrain: in the absence of positive evidence, the liaison never occurred.
Alexander O. Boulton 1043
7) The 1998 DNA analysis undoubtedly contributed to giving a slightly clearer picture of the Jefferson-Hemings scandal, but it simultaneously gave rise to suspicion as to whether Tom was the son of Jefferson and Hemings.
Yoriko Ishida 153
8) As [the Woodsons] make clear, their interest is not to claim kinship with Jefferson, but to legitimize their family patriarch, Thomas Woodson.
Laura B. Randolph 26
9) Shannon Lanier, a ninth generation descendant of Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson, grew up believing that he had inherited the best of both worlds: he took pride in his African American ancestry and in his connection with the Jefferson heritage.
Mavis Brown 69
10) Maybe it's not a matter of race. Maybe it's not a matter of black or white. Maybe the issue here is family. And the fact that the importance is placed not upon the immediate, but the long and twisted tree that may or may not actually be rooted in Thomas Jefferson. And who wants dibs at that. Consider this. Say it was rumored that I was related to someone incredible. Actually, this is true for me so consider it a real-life example. I have been told that I am related to John Dalton, the guy who discovered the atom. Yep, I know. Pretty big deal. But I have absolutely no desire to trace my lineage back to him. If I was, cool. If not, that's okay too. I'm still going to live my life. Is this case different because John Dalton was a known white man? What if he was black? Would my interest change? I'm not sure. But I'm also not sure I'd be willing to risk dividing my family over something that will never be known because it is too far in the past and there is virtually no evidence. The issue of race, in this case, seems to be a self-fulfilling divide for a "family" that may or may not even be related! But because they choose to see the racial divide, they will never see that even complete strangers just might have something in common. And it might not even have anything to do with Thomas Jefferson. It just might have to do with a basic appreciation for humanity. At the end of the day, what's the big idea here?
Kristen Dalton, Lehigh University
11) Lucian Truscott IV, a dissident Jefferson family member, invited all Hemings descendants to crash the annual family reunion May 15-16 as his guests. In response, the Monticello Association, a group of 700 officially acknowledged Jefferson descendants, says it will welcome Hemings' descendants to all the weekend's events. But the reunion could have some racially charged moments. The Monticello Association says it has no plans to let the slave's descendants join the family association or gain the right to be buried next to Jefferson in the family graveyard at Monticello. "It may be awkward at moments, but I don't want them to feel excluded," said Monticello Association President Robert Gillespie, a Richmond lawyer.
Dennis Cauchon, “Limited Invitation”
12) And this is where the Jefferson family's example may encourage the rest of us. What we do is, we all declare ourselves black, or African American, or colored, or persons of color, or whatever the nomenclature of the day may be. All the affirmative action baloney goes out the window instantly. No more arguing about who discriminates against who on the basis of race, since we're all by personal declaration to be of one race. Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan -- and David Duke and the grapenuts on the fringe -- are out of business overnight, forced to get a job.
13) The association extended its invitation to this weekend's event only after one of its members, the white author Lucian Truscott IV, flung down a gauntlet: Let the Hemings descendants come or he'd crash the party with a couple dozen black cousins in tow. Truscott's challenge resonates like a cowbell in the church of America's official history. "In a really basic way, white people are scared to find out who their relatives are," Truscott says. "The association is afraid to discover the truth of what went on back then, what their ancestors did and knew about. This is about being afraid of what black folks have known all their life."
14) COURIC: Why don't you explain, Mr. Truscott, what the Monticello Family Association is?
Mr. TRUSCOTT: the Monticello Association is a family group that basically meets once a year and maintains the grave yard. That's really its sole purpose. And it's separate from the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, which runs Monticello here.
COURIC: Tell me what the reaction was, Mr. Truscott, when you suggested that the descendants of Sally Hemings join the reunion this weekend, from the other members of the association.
Mr. TRUSCOTT: Well, I think it's fair, fair to say that I'm not their favorite person right now. But then, again, I don't think I've been their favorite person for many years anyway. But the reaction was that they, having seen that 35 or so Hemings were going to be coming this weekend, they had a meeting of their executive committee and sort of panicked and decided to issue their own invitation to the Hemings to come and be guests of the association, as well. So for the first time in the 86-year history of the Monticello Association, the descendants of Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson will be right here on this lawn tomorrow night and in the room on Sunday when the Monticello Association discusses the fate of my Hemings cousins.
15) This documentary [Jefferson's Blood] really bothered me so much, from the fact that there was a white side and a black side and that they didn't recognize each other as family, to the woman whose family disowned her because she recognized the black side of her family and wanted to meet them. While so deep-rooted, I found the issue of race within the family, very appalling and so ridiculous. Her present-day descendants are so far removed from the past that I don't understand why they can't get over the past, accept each other's differences, and become a family. Like Professor Gallagher pointed out, Shelby Steele in the PBS Frontline Jefferson's Blood makes a great point in his statement, "If Jefferson's descendants are unconvincing just yet as family, they are nevertheless struggling with their relatedness to each other. But their racial identities attach them to so much history, give them territories to defend, grudges to settle, guilts to redeem. And there is no way to resolve all the history between them. To be a family Jefferson's descendants will simply have to want family more than race. Out of this wanting they can make new history". Even though it's easier said than done, I feel as though they can get over the past because they do have things in common, whether or not they want to admit it.
Samantha Gerstein, Lehigh University
16) The 40's found young Julia Jefferson entering her teens in a white, suburban household with parents who admonished her about black people and to play only with "her own kind." When she bicycled off to meet a black friend she'd met in Bible school, her parents followed her in the car, put the bicycle in the trunk and told her never to do that again. Julia said: "Maybe they thought it was catching. I don't know. Or maybe my father knew about his black background and was worried." Julia's father was descended from Eston Hemings, a son of the enslaved woman Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson.
Brent Staples, “Hemings Family”
17) Thomas Jefferson's heirs are proposing the creation of a separate cemetery on the grounds of Monticello for the descendants of slave Sally Hemings, but aren't ready to let her offspring into the family association. A Hemings descendant said Friday that the proposal is just another example of separate but unequal. "Nothing's changed in 200 years, has it?" Julia Westerinen of New York City said after learning of the recommendation by the Monticello Association's membership advisory committee. "They're still saying the same thing: You've got to sit in the back of the bus."
Allen G. Breed
18) This weekend, after four years of infighting during which family members have hired their own public relations consultants, sponsored independent research and placed gag orders on association members, Jefferson's family is finally going to decide if Hemings' children belong at the table.
19) President Thomas Jefferson, one of the great forefathers of the United States of America and the late Senator Strom Thurmond are prime examples of men who used their power to force women to accept situations of sexual exploitation and psychological abuse as part of the legacy of female powerlessness and marginalization. Both of these men created a powerful connection between patriarchy, racism and the subjugation of poor women. In a real sense, both men are significant anchors in a syndrome of exploitation, which has resulted in generations of children who constantly must question their identity and their bloodlines. It is interesting to note that it is on the level of the sexual that powerful men can scoff at their principles and their ideologies as if morality must be seen in spheres other than the sexual. Interestingly, both Jefferson and Thurmond were involved with powerless women who were black but we need to understand that this syndrome is related not just to racism but to sexism and the intersection between class, race and gender.
20) While watching the Oscars on Sunday, my roommates and I were discussing the "controversial" article about Halle Berry in Ebony magazine recently in which she said that while she is half-black and half-white, she considers herself "black"; and that she also personally considers her 1/4 black daughter to be "black." Someone piped up talking about how stupid they think that is and that no one should have to choose between their race, et cetera et cetera, which immediately made me think of this documentary [Jefferson's Blood] on all the Jefferson-Hemings descendants. I think the relationship these descendants have with their race and phenotype is extremely interesting. It really opened my eyes to the relationship one has with their race and how much of it goes beyond just external appearances. The seemingly white, blonde-haired, blue-eyed descendants who thought of themselves as being black revealed to me the importance this family feels in recognizing their ancestry and their race to the fullest extent. It also made me reflect on the impossibility of being "no" race or "every" race in this society. With everyone's compulsion to know everyone else's exact race, it seems as though there is no room to simply not identify yourself as being one thing or the other. For instance, for both the Berry family and the Hemings family, it almost seems as though simply being "biracial" is simply not an option. This was especially manifested in the resentment the young woman's father felt towards her even looking into her black side of the family -- it clashed with them being strictly white. I found this documentary to be extremely enlightening in regards to both what faces the Jefferson-Hemings descendants now as well as to be a reflection of the temperature of the racial climate these days to boot.
Mary O'Reilly, Lehigh University
21) This weekend, Sally Hemings' descendants, emboldened by DNA tests that appear to prove Jefferson fathered at least one of Hemings' children, will try to reclaim some of their obliterated past. They have been invited to the annual family reunion of Thomas Jefferson's acknowledged descendants -- an event that is shaping up as an uncomfortable fight over a family graveyard but also signals the Hemingses' emergence from Jefferson's shadow as sort of the first family of slavery.
Dennis Cauchon, "Rift Runs”
22) TRUSCOTT: Well, I think it's really very simple here. I mean, we're sitting in a state where Brown v. Board of Education was passed in '54, and it took 10 years to get kids, white kids and black kids to go to school together.
I mean, this is about race. It's not about genealogy.
In fact, I think in this family the word "genealogy" has become a codeword for race. There's a lot of people in the Monticello Association who don't want black people buried in their graveyard, and they have told officers of the association they'll resign from the association and not be buried there. This is about race.
HEMMER: Lucian, you have said—and I will quote you here—you're going to "drive people crazy until the Hemings branch is written in the family tree. "Why so committed?
TRUSCOTT: Well, it's the right thing to do. It's the way I was raised. I was raised by my mother and father and by my grandparents, and one of my grandparents was Sarah Randolph Truscott. She was the daughter of the founder of the Monticello Association, and I think that this matter comes down to whether or not you believe the words that Mr. Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence. I was raised to believe those words . . .
23) They had come to Monticello, the mountaintop plantation of Thomas Jefferson, in hopes of mending 200 years of distance and separation. But after heartfelt smiles and bittersweet embraces, the acknowledged descendants of the third president and the members of families who trace their roots to the disputed affair between Jefferson and his slave mistress, Sally Hemings, ended their first-ever reunion yesterday with a full-out family squabble. Both sides of the founding father's family said that a private business meeting of the Thomas Jefferson Family Association turned nasty when members of the group., which represents about 700 of Jefferson's acknowledged kin, demanded a vote to bar the Hemings descendants from a discussion of membership rules. A subsequent call for a vote to have the Hemings family accepted as honorary members for a year while an association committee studies their lineage was quashed. And an effort to force the group to immediately accept the memberships of four of the Hemingses died when the association agreed to review their applications without committing to accept them.
William R. Macklin
24) The denial employed by plantation wives became a powerful force in history. White families who feared that society would penalize them for blackness cut off ties to black relatives and sanitized the family history. Only in the last several years, thanks in part to interracial reunions on "Oprah," has it become acceptable for whites to acknowledge the black ancestry that black families have always accepted. Not all families who see themselves as white have been so receptive. The family organization that represents the white descendants of Thomas Jefferson has no interest at all in acknowledging the children of the slave Sally Hemings. Genealogist and historians believe her offspring to be the children of Thomas Jefferson. The family group, known as the Monticello Association, has been unhappy ever since 1998, when genetic evidence found a perfect match between Jefferson and Hemings' youngest son, Eston.
Brent Staples, “All-American Melting Pot”
25) I was struck [in Jefferson's Blood] by the woman who was basically disowned by most of her white family, yet barely received by her black relatives. It's hard to hear that this racial tension still exists so strongly today that it could tear apart a family. The quote "to leave a race is to leave a family" seemed to me, when Gallagher first read it before we watched the documentary, to be a pretty strong statement, but after witnessing the struggle between the two sides, it rings very true. In another class I'm taking, "Race and Philosophy," we were discussing what it is to be "mixed." Someone gave us an account of his friend who is mixed-race, and he doesn't identify with one or the other; he identifies with both and asserts that he is just mixed. He said his friend actually has encountered quite a few people who urge him to identify with only one but that he refuses to. I kept thinking about this as we were watching the documentary. Why was it so negative for both the black and white sides of the family, to just be "mixed"? To be part something, and part another? One relative on the black side (who I wouldn't have thought, had she not said something, that she considered herself black) said something along the lines of "I'm just black. That's what I identify with." And obviously those on the white side don't want to acknowledge any black family lines. I was basically just left wondering why people today feel like they need to identify with one concrete thing, and when--if ever--racial tensions will subside, if they can't even with family.
Samantha Feinberg, Lehigh University
26) Descendants of slave Sally Hemings, declaring they were tired of drawing hostile stares at gatherings hosted by white kin of Thomas Jefferson, said today that they will have their own reunion at Monticello in July.
27) About 65 descendants of Thomas Jefferson and his slave, Sally Hemings, gathered for a reunion this weekend in southern Ohio, where two of Hemings' children are believed to have moved after being freed.
"Descendants of Jefferson”
28) This conclusion [of the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society] leaves us with another mystery. All defenders and critics of Jefferson agree that Sally Hemings bore a child, perhaps named Tom, around 1790. However, this child has left only a faint trace in the historical record, in contrast to Hemings's subsequent children (Harriet, Beverly, Madison, and Eston), about whom we know a considerable amount. What happened to Tom? No doubt his shadowy figure will haunt our stories of Jefferson and Hemings for many years to come.
Alexander O. Boulton 1044
29) Indeed, considering the 1998 DNA results, Madison Hemings's statement, Jefferson's farm book, and Thomas Turner's letter, these historical documents seem to indicate the nonexistence of Tom, but at the same time, the U.S. Federal census and the Woodson family oral history seem to indicate the importance of Wood's and Ellis's suggestions.
Yoriko Ishida 160
30) I was also grappling with the level of hatred between races. To make sense of this, I thought about the Lehigh-Lafayette rivalry tradition. When did it start? Not too sure -- way back when. Why did it start? No idea. How'd it keep going? I'd guess it was just passed down from generation to generation. I played soccer my first two years at Lehigh. Freshman year I jumped on the bandwagon and got really excited about playing Lafayette. I'd heard stories about how obnoxious they were on the field in past meetings and the verbal abuse my teammates had to endure. I'd heard about stories of former team members -- girls I didn't even know -- who had some pretty intense run-ins with girls on the field. I sympathized with them. As time passed, I'd grown a resentment for Lafayette. My second year I found myself passing those stories onto the Rookies. It turned out to be a vicious cycle. Every game was competitive, but there was just something about Lafayette that made me cringe. Why? They'd done nothing to me. I was told to resent them. Told to be harder on them. They were just like me. Collegiate athletes playing the sport they loved. Scary stuff when you parallel it to hatred between races passed down from generation to generation.
Stephanie DeLuca, Lehigh University
31) The first of the many commemorations ("celebration" is, again, in disfavor) has been going on for several days: The Jeffersonian scholars are swarming. They are here at the University of Virginia for a conference called "Jeffersonian Legacies." For the most part Jefferson has been lauded and praised: Jefferson scholars are hardly a spittle-spewing, stink-bomb-throwing bunch. But inevitably they have to deal with the not trivial problem of his attitudes toward blacks, women, Native Americans and just about anyone else who was not part of the white, male, property-owning elite. Indeed, the most anticipated event of the week occurs this morning, a seminar titles "Jefferson, Race and Slavery" that is not expected to add any luster to Jefferson's reputation.
32) Oral historian Beverly Gray, who has spent 30 years researching Monticello slave families, said the reunion was a milestone in advancing racial understanding. "This reunion helps the various parts of the family stay together and engage in the healing needed to overcome the effects of slavery," she said.
"Descendants of Jefferson”
33) "What this whole Monticello thing is boiling down to is not so much whether or not Jefferson and Hemings had sex but the legacy that slavery has left us," Truscott said. "Part of that legacy is this incredible closeness of family that exists that people don't acknowledge." "I mean, I've got thousands, literally thousands of black cousins, and that wasn't something that was on my mind when I was 15 years old. But I'll guarantee you it's on the mind of my 7-year-old daughter."
34) While the committee said it could not recommend the Hemings' inclusion in the Monticello Association, it suggested the family create an umbrella organization for the slaves and others who built Monticello and allowed Jefferson to accomplish his great deeds. "We cannot change or reinvent history," reads the report, which has been circulating among Jefferson family members over the last few weeks and was obtained by The Associated Press. "We can, however, embrace what we know and assign credit where credit is due or long overdue." The new group, which the committee suggests calling Families of Jefferson's Monticello, would be open to anyone who could prove descent from one of the slaves or artisans who worked at the plantation during Jefferson's life, or anyone who lived on the plantation at that time.
Allen G. Breed
35) I think what struck me most during our last class was the fact that several of us have encountered race/ethnicity-related situations in our lifetimes, more than fifty years after the civil rights movement. If there are still major issues like this lingering today in the wake of a massive social outcry for change, what does that mean for Sally and Jefferson's generation? What struck me the most in the video [Jefferson's Blood] was the turmoil faced by the woman who was trying to document her family tree. The disassociation she experienced from her family seems harsh and extreme. This gives us a small taste of the intense emotional turmoil that must have surrounded the Jefferson-Hemings relationship.
Katie Prosswimmer, Lehigh University
36) "Racism is still alive and well in America," said Deborah Edwards, another descendant of Madison Hemings, from Newark, N.J. "In days gone by, they wore sheets and pillowcases. Today, they wear suits." But some of Jefferson's acknowledged descendants say it's unfair to rush this small association, which took 15 years to hire a cemetery gardener. "We're not racists. We're snobs," said Nashville resident Theresa Shackelford, a descendant of Jefferson's daughter Maria.
Dennis Cauchon, "Family Ties”
37) Mr. TRUSCOTT: Let me -- let me tell you what I think about the DNA.
Mr. TRUSCOTT: I think it's irrelevant. Nobody has ever drawn my blood . . .
Dr. COOLEY-QUILLE: Right
Mr. TRUSCOTT: . . . or taken my DNA to test and see whether or not I'm actually a descendent of Thomas Jefferson. And -- and I don't think it's right to take the DNA of black, my black cousins and test their DNA to see if they're descendants and not take my DNA. You know, this place here, Monticello, and the Monticello Association, is in the name of Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. He said all men are created equal. You know what that means to me? That means you don't have separate standards for separate races. You don't have one standard for me and Lily, my daughter, and another standard for my black cousins that are descended from Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson. It's wrong.
38) "I am going to ask that all association members be required to take DNA tests to prove we're Jefferson descendants," he says. "It's racist on its face to tell black people that their oral history is not enough (to qualify) -- despite DNA -- while automatically believing the oral history of whites like me."
Dennis Cauchon, “Limited Invitation”
39) Lanier and Feldman's strong contribution in Jefferson's Children is to make readers aware that it is the character and values of this diverse group of people that truly make them into a family.
Mavis Brown 72
40) Every one of us has grown up with stories of forbidden love: the Little Mermaid, Romeo and Juliet, Paris and Helen, etc. This just happens to be a real-life version. As we've seen in all of these stories, there are serious hurdles to overcome, but the power of love is enough to keep the couple going. I have to wonder if this is what happened in the case of Sally and Jefferson.
Katie Prosswimmer, Lehigh University
41) A historic family reunion of Thomas Jefferson's descendants ended Sunday with name-calling and charges of racism. Jefferson's acknowledged family postponed deciding whether the offspring of the founding father's apparent affair with a slave should be admitted into the family group and its one-acre graveyard at Jefferson's Monticello estate.
Dennis Cauchon, "Family Ties”
42) Jefferson, as Mr Truscott says, "owned 38 human beings on Independence Day when he wrote those beautiful words — "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal . . . " the right thing now is to show some common sense in welcoming these good people into our hearts and our family."
43) A Los Angeles scriptwriter and journalist and a Jeffersonian descendent, Truscott is also an incendiary fellow, who felt many of his kin were reluctant to acknowledge Jefferson's philanderings out of pride. He also believed they were ready to keep the Hemings offspring out of a family association that allows descendants to be buried on the grounds of Monticello out of racism. Mr. Truscott said some among his extended family were acting like "two-bit, redneck diner owners in 1955, happily denying seating to black people."
44) The hometown of Thomas Jefferson is being asked to name a street for Sally Hemings, a slave believed to have given birth to at least one child by Jefferson. . . . "I think people are hungering to see a more real and full view of American history here and in other places as well," said Charlottesville Mayor Virginia Daugherty.
45) "We voted not to include the Hemings members because they could not provide sufficient evidence of a relationship" between Hemings and Jefferson, he said. "Because they were frustrated, they became discourteous to our members and to our ancestors. You don't get invited back to the party when you haven't acted as a good guest." Truscott said that the yearly confrontations have outlived their usefulness and that he intends to participate in the Hemings family reunion in July but not in next year's meeting of the Monticello Association. "As far as I'm concerned, it's over. It's time to move on," he said. "What's interesting is to explore the history we have in common with slave descendants and to find out exactly what that means for this country—and for us."
46) "I don't know what other proof is needed," said Truscott, of Los Angeles. "To me the foundation's report was the final nail in the coffin. It was like the Civil Rights Act for the Hemings descendants."
Kia Shant Breaux
47) The Monticello Association's Lucian Truscott of Los Angeles, who invited several Hemings relatives to last year's and this year's reunion, said Works' organization is trying to protect Jefferson's reputation. "But how can you do further damage to a slave owner?" he said. "What's higher? Crack dealer?"
Nick P. Divito
48) Old-guard Jefferson descendants are fighting this new reality. But historians at Monticello itself, near Charlottesville, Va., have increasingly rendered them irrelevant by showing that the Jefferson family -- and the early world it built -- was a mixed-race enterprise, not just in the sexual sense, but at all levels of daily life. It was therefore fitting that the guest list at the most recent reunion did not end with the Jefferson bloodline but sprawled all over the Monticello family tree. Present were descendants of Burwell Colbert, the slave who fluffed Jefferson's deathbed pillows, and Wormley Hughes, the head gardener, to whom Jefferson entrusted his exotic plants. The most talked about ancestor this time around was Sally's half-brother, the master carpenter John Hemings, who had helped to build Monticello and whose last service for Jefferson was to build his coffin. This new chapter in the plantation's life was masterminded by the historians Lucia Stanton and Dianne Swann-Wright, who have been working for a long time to flesh out the lives of the slave workers who built and ran the plantation while Jefferson carried out his research in horticulture, architecture and design.
Brent Staples, “Interracialism Among”
49) The Woodson clan, after all, had worked tirelessly to convince white Americans that Thomas Jefferson was the father of Sally Hemings's children; it simply turned out that their ancestor evidently was not one of them.
Jan Lewis 207
50) The documentary [Jefferson's Blood] reminded me of Phillip Roth's The Human Stain. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the plot, one character, Coleman Silk, is in his seventies and a Classics professor at a college until he loses his job by being unfairly accused of making a racist comment by two black students. He called them "spooks" for never attending class, without knowing their race. This situation eventually leads to the loss of his job and the inevitable reflections of his life up until that point through the use of flashbacks. You come to realize how ironic the situation is because Coleman is actually black but has been passing himself off as a white Jewish man for the past fifty years. He had practically reinvented himself to become white. He abandoned his family, joined the Navy as a white man, married a white woman, and never looked back until the literal "spooks" from his past came back to haunt him. The idea of betraying your past has a price to pay-- it's psychologically self-punishing. With this idea in mind, I wonder what motivates certain descendants of the Jefferson-Hemings family to not want to reach out to other family members and accept the validity of the relationship. We discussed the concept of self-identification and what it would mean if someone told you that your perception of yourself was completely wrong. To answer my own question, I can only come up with fear. One of the interviewees (I cannot place her name, but she had mentioned that her family had stopped communication with her because of her curiosity) said that her family was afraid that they wouldn't be seen as white if the veracity of their history was exposed. Her family has passed as white for generations at this point, so why start digging up the past? But the fact that it has caused a strain in their family is just a result of them not accepting the situation for what it is. Instead, the family is left with the consequences of rejecting a part of their history.
Alexandra Neumann, Lehigh University
51) Descendants of the slave Sally Hemings will attend the annual reunion of Thomas Jefferson's descendants for a second time this weekend. But, also for a second time the Jefferson family association plans to delay deciding the thorny issue of whether Hemings' kin should be welcomed into the family. "The committee we set up to study the issue hasn't had time to finish its work," says James Truscott, president of the Monticello Association, a group of about 700 descendants of Jefferson and his wife, Martha.
Dennis Cauchon, "Jefferson Family Still”
52) A long-suspected slave graveyard has been discovered in a stand of trees at Monticello, the Virginia plantation of Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States and author of the Declaration of Independence, estate caretakers said. Crews in the last few months have excavated 20 of an estimated 40 to 110 graves after identifying rectangular depressions lying in distinctive rows facing toward the east -- a Christian custom of the time -- along with several headstones and footstones. For about 10 years, archeologists working for the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which owns and operates the 2,000 acre plantation, have suspected that the area under examination was a slave burial ground. Excavation began in February as part of an extensive archeological survey of the plantation.
53) "Nothing's changed in 200 years, has it?" the descendant, Julia Westerinen of New York City, said after learning of the recommendation by the Monticello Association's membership advisory committee.
54) A 24-page report being presented today by a committee of the Monticello Association -- a group representing more than 700 lineal descendants of Jefferson and his wife, Martha -- recommends that Hemings's offspring be denied a place in their select ranks. Citing a "lack of universally acceptable information" regarding Jefferson's alleged paternity of one or more of Hemings's children, the report says it would be inappropriate to embrace her clan without more evidence. One of the privileges of being a proven Jefferson descendant is burial at Monticello. "Only further historical and scientific research which discloses new facts could give a different and more definitive answer to the question," states the Membership Advisory committee report, which was three years in the making. "Therefore we believe that there is not sufficient evidence for descendants of Sally Hemings to meet the criteria . . . for membership."
55) I also left class [after watching Jefferson's Blood] questioning why there is so much hatred between races. I think about Viv's point about how unless we are able to look past all of this hate, we will never be able to break this boundary. I also think that it is hard for me to understand what it is like to be a minority, and I can only imagine that this feeling of being different probably has a lot to do with this hatred and separation. Why did the woman's family force her to choose between her black and white side of the family? Why is it that because she wanted to discover her roots, she "abandoned" her white roots, but was yet to be accepted by her black ones? I know that every family has their own sets of issues, but I could not imagine combining those issues with ones having to do with race. I really can understand why this woman wanted to find out where she was from. However, I could not stop thinking about how this hatred even exists. I really do realize that until we are able to rise above hate, there will always be a separation.
Abigail Harris-Shea, Lehigh University
56) Historians who are now searching for ways to understand the Jefferson-Hemings relationship have several models from which to choose. Some masters developed caring, de facto marriages with enslaved women and tried to leave their children money and property in their wills. Other masters were serial rapists or plantation potentates who made harems in their slave quarters and were profoundly indifferent to their offspring. For the time being, however, the last word on this issue should go to Madison Hemings, who flatly and dispassionately describes the relationship as a bargain, in which his mother consented to share Jefferson's bed in exchange for the emancipation of their children. That she had the courage to articulate this deal — and stand firm on its terms -- makes her more than a mere concubine. It makes her the architect of her family's freedom.
Brent Staples, “Lust Across”
57) If Finkelman was the chief prosecutor, the star witness for the prosecution was Robert Cooley, a middle-aged black man who claimed to be a direct descendant of Jefferson and Sally Hemings. Cooley stood up in the audience during a question-and answer session to offer himself as "living proof" that the story of Jefferson's liaison with Sally Hemings was true. No matter what the scholarly experts had concluded, there were several generations of African-Americans living in Ohio and Illinois who knew they had Jefferson's blood in their veins. Scholars could talk till doomsday about the absence of hard evidence or documentation. But the evidence did not exist for a good reason. "We couldn't write back then," Cooley explained. "We were slaves." And Jefferson's white children had probably destroyed all written records of the relationship soon after his death. Cooley essentially pitted the oral tradition of the black community against the written tradition of the scholarly world. His version of history might not have had the hard evidence on its side, but it clearly had the political leverage. When he sat down, the applause from the audience rang throughout the auditorium. The Washington Post reporter covering the conference caught the mood: "Jefferson's defenders are on the defensive. What tough times these are for icons."
Joseph J. Ellis, “Jeffersonian Surge: America, 1992-93” (in American Sphinx) 20
58) Even worse, the Heritage Society revives the racist double standard in judging evidence that Gordon-Reed so persuasively exposed. To rescue Thomas Jefferson's reputation, it proves necessary to assail the character of others. Sally Hemings is portrayed as childish, illiterate, unsophisticated, prone to gossip, and promiscuous. Her son Madison is bitter, gullible, and vainglorious.
Alexander O. Boulton 1042
59) However, it is also a trust that there is an oral tradition, handed down from generation to generation in the Woodson family. The Woodson family asserts that Tom Woodson, who was the son of Jefferson and Hemings, and was banished from Monticello around 1803, is their ancestor. As mentioned early in this chapter, he was sent away from Monticello to the Woodson farm, and took the name of Woodson. According to the U.S. Federal census, a Thomas Woodson certainly existed in the nineteenth century. However, there is no evidence to bring him and Monticello together.
Yoriko Ishida 155
60) One thing that I found especially interesting in the portion of the documentary [Jefferson's Blood] that we watched was the interaction between all the different people while they were preparing for their picture to be taken at Monticello. There was such a variety of individuals--those who were dark black, those who were very white, those somewhere inbetween, and some I had no idea of their racial identity. It is amazing to step back from this situation and consider the magnitude of that moment. All of those individuals are brought together by this one tie, this one relationship from so long ago in history. I think it is pretty powerful. What struck me even more, though, was the behavior of the people as they posed. One white woman I noticed especially. She had her hair done and wore lots of makeup and what appeared to be either a blazer and skirt or a suit. She seemed to be looking around disdainfully. Though she did not speak at all in the documentary, I pictured her thinking something rude like "Why are they here with me?" Though I could be completely off, I think there is something to be said for these sorts of emotions that are probably running through white family members with a sense of entitlement in the historical representation of the Jefferson-Hemings relationship. Somehow, these two racial groups must come together. This is a tough topic because I think society still, as in Jefferson's time, wants there to be this tension between races and between color lines. The challenge is to see beyond and see people for who they are and this sort of a reunion would hopefully create an ideal situation for progress. And, if we believe that Jefferson did have a loving relationship with Sally (in some capacity), I think it is safe to say that this is exactly what he would like to see his descendants doing--coexisting peacefully and coming to know and understand a common history at the place he loved the most.
Kimbrilee Weber, Lehigh University
61) A group of Thomas Jefferson's descendants decided Sunday that DNA tests and historic evidence are not enough to admit relatives of Sally Hemings, a Jefferson slave, as bona fide members of their organization. Members of the Monticello Association — a group of more than 700 lineal descendants of Jefferson — also rejected a proposal to allow the slave descendents a separate family association and cemetery -- derided by critics as "separate but equal." "Our intent was to kill this forever so it doesn't keep coming up again," said John Works Jr., a former president of Monticello Association. "This should do it." Instead, the vote might only exacerbate the rancor. "This is a question of race," said Lucian Truscott IV, a Jefferson descendant who has championed the cause of Hemings' heirs. "This rings a tinny bell in the state of Virginia. It brings up bad memories." "I felt so demeaned by the ugliness of this," said Shay Banks Young, a Hemings descendant. "I want no part of their association. I have no interest in being buried in their cemetery."
62) Whitey's most recent appearance was in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend, where nearly all white descendants of Thomas Jefferson banded together to bar the descendants of his plantation's most famous slave, Sally Hemings, from any form of membership in their Monticello Association and from getting the opportunity to be buried there. They also voted not to recognize the Hemings descendants in any other form -- specifically as part of the descendants of all who lived or worked at the estate during Jefferson's lifetime. This classic Whitey behavior is all the more notable because of the mental gymnastics required to deny a relationship that obviously existed between tow people and that continues to exist genetically to this day.
63) Descendants of Sally Hemings, a slave who may have borne Thomas Jefferson's children, attended the annual Jefferson family reunion Saturday and today but only after being told that they would need to be escorted to the event by a Jefferson family member. "Every year, I feel so uncomfortable because you know people don't want us to be here," said Michele Cooley as she waited for a sponsor. "But I still feel victorious because my family has developed also many friendships with some of them."
64) When history buff Garrett Redmond bought a filly out of the Colonial Affair mare Jefferson's Secret, he thought he had the perfect name: Sally Hemings. Hemings was a slave of President Thomas Jefferson and might have been his mistress. Although the exact nature of their connection is in dispute, Hemings and Jefferson are thought by some historians to have had a decades-long relationship and at least one child and possibly more together. "To name a horse after someone is an honor," said Redmond, owner of Ballycapple, a farm in Paris. "I have a horse here named after my wife." But The Jockey Club, which regulates the naming of all thoroughbred racehorses, didn't see it that way. The arbiters of equine taste have refused to allow the name.
65) I find it astonishing [in Jefferson's Blood] how both the "Jefferson" supporters and the "Hemings" supporters let their emotions get in the way of facts. Despite mounting evidence that there was a relationship, Jefferson supporters continue to hold their heads high and act as if the "character defense" is an acceptable counter to those claims. They are ridiculed by the Hemings for their lack of regard to facts and evidence. But the Hemings do the very same thing. Thomas Woodson relies heavily on oral tradition as proof. When questioned about the failed DNA test, he scoffs why should that matter when he has the testimony of years of oral history. Yes, he actually claims that a failed DNA test means nothing. Apparently, one of the greatest breakthroughs in the history of science holds less credibility than oral tradition. I hope everyone else sees the hypocrisy that is driving me crazy.
Brandon Barton, Lehigh University
66) Is that mean-spirited? Or is it more like saying that if the Joneses have a family reunion, the Wilsons aren't going to get invited? The Hemings family may sniff racism at the refusal of Jefferson's lineal descendants or his estate to acknowledge the supposed family ties, but there's much more to this business than simple paternity. If Jefferson was, indeed, the father of Eston Hemings, it would mean that the third president was, in effect, the Bill Clinton of his era. It would mean that Jefferson exploited a woman in a subordinate position and fathered her illegitimate child. Not a legacy to be proud of --and unworthy of Jefferson's stated values enshrined in some of this country's founding documents. It's encouraging, therefore, that the Monticello Association had the courage to stand up to the political correctness that would drag Jefferson's name through the mud. He may have been a founding father--but that doesn't make him Eston Hemings' father.
“Keeping up with the Jeffersons”
67) The view of the family [in Jefferson's Blood] divided simply because of the color of their skin, because of their different identities (whether it be white or black), paints quite a gloomy image for the future of race relations in America. If we seemingly have come this far as a nation, abolishing slavery and everything since, but still have families and individuals pitted against each other because of race, can we ever be an undivided nation?
Elijah Ohrt, Lehigh University
68) A second and related question that the story raises today is: who controls the narrative? The Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society has been very active in pursuing an energetic and savvy public relations campaign. In addition to publishing a book and a "Scholars Report," its members have written numerous lengthy and often persuasive letters to e-mail discussion lists and readers' reviews for on-line bookstores. In the culture wars they see themselves as a David crusading for objective truth against the Goliath of "tenured radicals," political correctness, and revisionism. Ironically, in the wake of their efforts, the ultimate "truth" about Jefferson and Hemings seems ever more distant, leaving us to find our own way in a postmodern world where there is not one but many American histories, and truth appears only the most agreed-upon lie.
Alexander O. Boulton 1046
69) The Woodson family oral tradition, handed down from Thomas Woodson through five generations, has shown the rigid family bonds and pride of each member of the family that they were the descendants of Jefferson and Hemings.
Yoriko Ishida 154
70) [Jefferson's Blood demonstrates that] the story only worsens as time passes on. The Jefferson/Hemings descendants continue to suffer, even in the 20th century, with distinct white and black factions. If any family should have an appreciation for the unbearable hurt and alienation that comes with racism, it should be this family, yet they continue to let history repeat itself. It is such a paradox -- it's like the abusee becoming the abuser. As the narrator harshly describes, "To pass out of a race requires one to pass out of a family." Why is it so dramatic? Being white or black is only skin deep. It does not define you and certainly does not justify the split of a family, especially a family that has already coped with so much worse.
Jennifer Markham, Lehigh University
71) Members of the Hemings family, frustrated in their lengthy effort to win official recognition as relatives from the Monticello Association of Jefferson's descendants, had decided in May to hold their own weekend reunion here. During the memorial, held shortly after sunrise, they placed the flowers against the stumps of trees, because there are no headstones to mark the recently discovered graves of those who may have been their ancestors.
72) Our problem, ultimately, is not so much with these old heroes, the Columbuses and Jeffersons, as it is with history itself. We are handed a tale of wonder and woe. There is at times almost a zero-sum quality to the story: for every winner a loser; for every master a slave; for every treasure a terrible price. Monticello may be a magnificent temple that represents a new republic and the spirit of enlightenment -- but it also represents a Pharaonic taste for luxury, a fancifulness, a material impulse sustained only by the sacrifice of men and women and children held in bondage and, for the most part, sold upon the master's death.
73) While the standoff underscores America's continuing struggle to come to terms with the legacy of slavery, the controversy is as nuanced as the many shades of "black" that the present-day Hemings family embodies. In the end, the divisive reunions of the association actually helped create new family bonds among the very people it excluded -- and motivated a few Jeffersons to cross the racial divide and embrace their once distant cousins.
74) So to speak, after 1998, the mystery around Tom (Hemings) Woodson, taken out of the Jefferson-Hemings scandal, has developed a life of its own as a separate enigma.
Yoriko Ishida 160
75) He may have recognized that slavery would have to end, but Jefferson alone was not innovative enough to solve the issue of slavery. In his mind, he knew it was wrong and tried to hide it from both his and America's eyes with elaborate underground slave passages and dumbwaiter machines at Monticello. The great problem-solver left this one unsolved and created a muddle instead. Although it is easy to point fingers at Jefferson, this muddle was the product of America and the established mindsets of Americans, not Jefferson's rough start to solving the issue of slavery. Over time, as changes in the standards of ethical practices take place, previously accepted attitudes are mostly washed away and new ones are implemented. But it is also true that to wash away old ideas, a very powerful storm has to take place. Jefferson did the most that he could to solve the issue. It just wasn't humanly possible not to hurt or bestow the fate of "racelessness" upon anyone.
Danielle Heymann, Lehigh University
76) This lushly photographed film [PBS: Jefferson's Blood], its sun-drenched scenes of Monticello and Paris peopled only by portraits and focused on beautiful objects, landscapes, parks, and buildings, expertly depicts the opulence of Jefferson's life and imparts a sense of timelessness that links past and present. It tells the familiar story of Sally Hemings's interracial heritage and examines the other evidence of her relationship with Jefferson, but generally concentrates on Thomas Jefferson the philosopher and esthete who found ways to reconcile his position and his racism with his long-standing intimacy with his slave. Presenting a fair representation of Jefferson's racial views, the film shows him as a driven intellectual and a romantic who was moderately antislavery in his youth, soon bowed to the pressure of general southern views on race, was seduced by wealth and desire, and finally acted against his principles to maintain his life of privilege and possession.
Lois E. Horton 134
77) When readers of Jefferson's Children: The Story of One American Family look at photographs of Jefferson's descendants and read their stories, they can finally begin to bridge the gap between his life and his beliefs, a gap that Jefferson did not bridge when he failed to free his slaves on the day he wrote the Declaration of Independence. If we can finally admit that the third President of the United States had two families, and that one of them was African American, then we can begin to demystify race.
Mavis Brown 72
78) "You go along in your little white world and never really think about these things," Westernin says. "I'm learning that race makes some people very uncomfortable." She nods across the dining room, to a black couple eating dinner. His skin is a dark chocolate, hers a creamy brown. "African Americans have known our secret all along," she says, "but white people seem to float on this little cloud. I mean, let's wake up and smell the coffee. We have a lot more cousins than we ever imagined."
79) Celebrating today's 258th birthday of founding father Thomas Jefferson, President Bush signed a proclamation at the White House yesterday in the presence of Jefferson descendants, including those of Jefferson's slave Sally Hemings. "No wonder America sees itself in Thomas Jefferson," Bush told his several dozen guests, both white and black, in the East Room. . . . White House officials said they regarded Hemings' descendants as descendants of the third president.
80) Race is seemingly just a color, ranging anywhere from a deep ebony to a light ivory, but for some reason it has always signified so much more. [In Jefferson's Blood] Jefferson/Hemings descendant Amalia Cooper claims, "Society forces you to choose an identity." But why are we so fixated with black versus white? Race issues have caused so many individuals so much pain on both sides of the color line -- not to mention those that hover in between -- so why aren't we able to look past it and save future generations the heartache?
Jennifer Markham, Lehigh University
81) In 1978, all of the Woodson descendants assembled in Pittsburgh by Minnie S. Woodson's proposal, and they organized "The Thomas Woodson Family Association." Their reunion has been periodically held since then. The Woodson family, Thomas Woodson's descendants, remains respectful of their oral history, even after the 1998 DNA tests denied a genetic link between the Jeffersons and the Woodsons. The Woodsons confidently expected that the DNA tests would provide the final proof supporting their oral history they had heard all their lives. When it did not, they were severely disappointed. They found it difficult to accept a genetic result that did not match the family history they had known for so long. They were extremely suspicious of the DNA results and of the researchers who performed the work (S. R. Williams 225-26). However, what should be read from the story of Thomas Woodson and the Woodson family is that they have believed that they were the descendants of Thomas Woodson, who was the son of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, and now they still believe this.
Yoriko Ishida 184-85
82) Jefferson's Blood presents the man, his history, and the historical role of race in the United States in a fascinating way that students will find appealing, humanizing the debate without sensationalizing or trivializing the issues. It is technically beautiful and the story is dramatic. It is only in danger of slipping into melodrama in brief segments reminiscent of the "tragic mulatto" narrative, with mixed-race people depicted as existing in a racial limbo.
Lois E. Horton 136
83) Whether you believe Jefferson fathered Hemings' children or not, the [Thomas Jefferson] Foundation, says Jordan, "views its contact with the Woodson family as a very positive thing and is anxious to learn more about African-American life at Monticello."
Laura B. Randolph 28
84) "There are some white descendants who are very, very uptight about this idea, and if it's determined that, yes, Sally Hemings was a paramour then they're going to be very hurt," says John B. Hubard, a physics teacher and president of the Monticello Association of descendants of Tomas Jefferson. "I'd hate to destroy images that have stood for 200 years." "If there's evidence, fine. If there's not evidence, then don't claim the contrary," Hubard said.
85) For me, the easiest part of the SATs was, by far, filling in the background information on page one of the answer booklet. I penciled in the bubbles for my name, birthdate, and race without thinking twice. After listening to the lifelong identity crisis of each of the Jefferson-Hemings descendants [on Jefferson's Blood, I find it hard to imagine what it would be like to not know how to fill in that "Race" bubble. Are they white? Black? Other? What does "other" even mean? Unfortunately, race plays a factor in many American affairs, the SATs being only one example. Why do we have to record which race we are on test booklets, college applications, or voting ballots? I feel as though this information should not be relevant if America considers everyone to be equal. This information should not have the power to split an entire family apart.
Hannah Masse, Lehigh University
86) Some of the most engaging footage in Jefferson's Blood deals with the consequences of America's racial dilemmas through the depiction of the Jefferson/Hemings descendants' establishment of their own racial identities. Presenting racial identity as a choice for these people, the film graphically illustrates the social construction of race. As the narrator moves between the descendants of "white" Hemingses and "black" Hemingses, the ambiguous relationship between race and color becomes clear.
Lois E. Horton 134-35
87) "The question of who gets buried in the graveyard is just symbolic. What's important is that it's the unwritten history of our country," he says. "On the morning Jefferson woke up and wrote the Declaration of Independence, a slave made his fire, drew his bath, prepared his pen. Every brick was made by slaves, every board was cut from trees by slaves. And when Tom was finished writing it, he rang a bell and a slave brought him some gin."
88) Hemings' descendants have been trying for years to gain official recognition that the nation's third president and author of the Declaration of Independence fathered at least some of Hemings' children. Their argument was bolstered in 1998, when DNA tests found that a male in Jefferson's family fathered Hemings' last child, Eston. A 24-page report by the family committee, however, concluded that there is not sufficient evidence to prove Eston Hemings -- lineal descent from Jefferson, a strict requirement for admission and for burial in the family plot at Monticello.
Allen G. Breed
89) And that is when [Robert Cooley] did it. He didn't plan to -- it just came tumbling out from deep inside of him. Standing in the hallowed Rotunda Room which Jefferson designed at the university the president founded, Cooley stood and told the room his story -- a story that he and hundreds of African-Americans across the country grew up hearing from their elders.
Laura B. Randolph 25
90) It is ironic [as shown in Jefferson's Blood] how a family that stemmed from the blend of two races has forced one specific race on themselves, that a family that stemmed from white and black cultures alike has grown aversion for the counterpart race. Until the two families see past bloodlines, past race, past color, they will not settle their differences and their racial dichotomy will remain as stark as it was when Jefferson and Sally lived two and a half centuries ago.
Michelle Juarez, Lehigh University
91) The Hemings family of Monticello was a remarkable American family. Although history has remembered Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson's alleged slave concubine, her brothers and sisters are forgotten by all but a handful of Jefferson scholars. This is unfortunate. Several members of the family were talented and ambitious, even though they were locked in a system that generally did not recognize talent or ambition. The story of the Hemings family sheds light on the slave experience as it was endured by individuals and as it was lived at Monticello.
James Bear 178
92) Works, who is running for association president on Sunday, considers himself a moderate between family members who want to keep the association restricted to Jefferson's proven offspring and others who want to give the Hemings clan the benefit of the doubt. He supports a plan recommended by the association's Membership Advisory Committee to create a separate but distinct heritage organization for all descendants of Jefferson's slaves. With the permission of Monticello's caretakers, the new group could even build its own burial plot, apart from the Jefferson family cemetery. "It will be an equal partnership, not like we're the guys in the big house and they're the folks out in the field," he said, "I can't agree with those who want to slam the door on them (the Hemings family.). That's just not the way you treat people."
93) Race -- that purely American social construct -- still exists as the ultimate scar of slavery. Jefferson's Blood shows a state of race-lessness peculiar to America.
Kiernan McGinnis, Lehigh University
94) "Your gracious invitation to again join The Monticello Association for their annual meeting this May brought back pleasant and not so pleasant memories of last year's meeting," the letter read. "Having reviewed those events in my mind, especially the unpleasant occurrences that I and my family experienced at the business meeting, I shall not be attending."
Yoriko Ishida, "Woodson Family”
95) In today's society, a family composed of two different races is acceptable. A man of any race can marry a woman of any other race, and almost always no questions will be asked, no statements will be made. Other than its forced secrecy, Jefferson had a kind, loving relationship with Sally Hemings; it was almost like a present-day mixed-race marriage. His descendants [as shown in Jefferson's Blood] are now close to a feud based on race. Half of the family is proud to be black another half is ashamed of having black ancestors. "Does race make family impossible for them [the descendants]?" How could "race make family impossible" when in today's society it is acceptable to marry a person of another race?
Adin Greenwald, Lehigh University
96) In a June 4, 2004, letter from Ogden Mills Phipps, chairman of The Jockey Club, Phipps said the name "is a clear reference to the slave woman alleged to have had children with Thomas Jefferson. Naming a thoroughbred horse "Sally Hemings" may be offensive to persons of African descent and other ethnic groups, may be offensive to descendants of the specific people involved, may have negative historical implications, may have negative moral implications and may be degrading to ethic groups and descendants of the people involved." You might mean it in a good sense, in trying to say something because she was Jefferson's secret, and it was a colonial affair, but when you look at the real story, she's not a joke, and she's not someone to put in a situation to be laughed at. He's probably not thinking of it from that perspective, but to people of color who have come through slavery, realizing that she was an enslaved woman of this man I there are many people who probably will get very, very insulted that he would think to name a horse after her.
97) Woodson's book is a work of amateur history. It includes potted histories of Jefferson and his time, family legend, and family memoir. There are many pictures of the Woodson family. It is hard not to sympathize with Woodson, whose family's claim to be black Jefferson descendants was treated for so long with such contempt. But it is hard, also, to sympathize too much with someone who puts such great store in who his ancestors were.
Jan Lewis 207
98) Eston crossed the line into whiteness around 1850. He moved his family from Ohio, where they were well known, to Madison, Wisconsin, where they were not, dropped the name Hemings for Jefferson, and passed as a white person, as did his wife and three children. Eston was remembered in one newspaper account as "Quiet, unobtrusive, polite and decidedly intelligent." The account continued, "he was soon very well and favorably known to all classes of our citizens, for his personal appearance and gentlemanly manners attracted everybody's attention to him."
Henry Wiencek 228
99) [Eston] could not conceal his remarkable resemblance to Thomas Jefferson. "It was rumored," said one newspaper in 1902, "that he was a natural son of President Thomas Jefferson, a good many people accepted the story as truth, form the intrinsic evidence of his striking resemblance to Jefferson." One of Eston's acquaintances, on a trip to Washington with several other men from Ohio, was stunned when the group came to a statue of the third president: "'Gentlemen, who in Chillicothe looks the most like that statue?' I asked. Instantly came the unanimous answer, ‘Why, Eston Hemings!'" The man who noticed Eston's "striking" likeness to the statue pointedly asked Eston about it, and Eston responded that his mother "belonged to Mr. Jefferson . . . and she never was married."
Henry Wiencek 228-29
100) Choosing the surname Jefferson might seem an odd way to hide one's identity, but Eston's features made it impossible to deny that he had some blood tie to the third president. His twentieth-century descendants believed they were descended from an unnamed Jefferson "uncle," most likely a cover story devised in the late nineteenth century to hide the family's descent not so much from Thomas Jefferson as from Sally Hemings. If it became known they were descended from Hemings, they would no longer be white people, but colored.
Henry Wiencek 229
101) When Monticello's historians went to interview Hemings descendants, they found photographs from the early twentieth century of Eston's grandson and a friend dressed as pickaninnies, wearing blackface and striking comical "colored" poses, including ogling white girls with the sort of leer that would get a real black man lynched. The grandson had been raised by his grandmother, Eston's wife, who was born in Virginia under slavery. Either the photographs were savagely ironic—the make-believe pickaninny had no idea he was descended from slaves—or the young man did know and the little joke bespoke a savage self-hatred.
Henry Wiencek 230
102) Another descendant of Madison Hemings's related a bitter moment in his grandmother's life, when she was not notified of the death of her brother, who had passed for white and married a white woman years before. He had remained in touch, however, through cards and phone calls on certain meaningful occasions. His new family did not send word across the color line until months after he died, perhaps to ensure that no part of the black family appeared at the funeral. One descendant told the historians, "The blacks don't like it because you're light-skinned and the whites know you're black so you're just stuck there." Another added, "They used to call us white niggers."
Henry Wiencek 231
103) The distant figure of Jefferson hovers over this world like the god of a Deist universe, the supreme being who set events in motion and then departed, with his offspring "left to the guidance of a blind fatality," struggling in the world their own father had created.
Henry Wiencek 231