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Films >> Jefferson in Paris (1995) >>

Slavery’s Women
By Faith Roncoroni, with comments by Keiko Akamine, Adam Baker, and Nelson Calero

Traditionally we learn the effects that slavery has had, and in some ways still has, on blacks: exploiting labor, undermining identity, separating mother and child, dehumanizing slaves who are the master’s blood relatives, dying at the end of a whip or barrel of a gun, and sowing fear to prevent advancement of the black race. We know that these are the horrors of slavery that blacks faced everyday, but we are embarrassed to admit that the United States was fundamentally structured in inequalities; our embarrassment and guilt associated with slavery often makes us dismiss how the privileged were also negatively impacted. The need to maintain power corrupted and consumed slave masters, causing them to become suspicious and power hungry...
Is Romanticizing Rape Acceptable?
By Anne Rodriguez, with comments by Kathryn Martin, Christopher McHugh, and Anna Robertson

Slavery was a terrible institution; it is one of our greatest shames for many reasons. One disgusting aspect of slavery was rape. Often, white masters raped their black slave women, and we will never know the extent of this abomination. Because the slave women were their property, the men felt they could do anything they wanted with them, that these women’s bodies were their property. Furthermore, rapes beget slave children, increasing the property value of the masters.
A Tale of Two Jamses
By Karolina Kiwak, with comments by Matthew Sakalosky, Raquel Santos, and Watson Sweat

The films Jefferson in Paris and Sally Hemings: An American Scandal both depict the scandalized relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. In the background, they also show the relationship between Sally and her older brother, James. Each film utilizes the character of James to enhance the message it is trying to portray. Jefferson in Paris uses James to represent the voice of reason and to fill the role of the strong African slave fighting his captors with knowledge. He is the one with a problem with enslavement and a craving for freedom and rights. Sally is portrayed as a naïve child, searching for someone to take care of her and thus turning to Jefferson to fill that need. James...
Sally Hemings: An Effective Inaccuracy
By Danielle Gorman, with comments by Emre Turan, Sabrina Velazquez, and Erin Wildeman

While we will never know which is more representative of the “true” Sally Hemings, the differing depictions provided to us in Jefferson in Paris and Sally Hemings: An American Scandal force us to question which writer was more accurate. However, in doing so, we must also ask ourselves if a small sacrifice of accuracy was the more effective approach in terms of reaching a broader audience and disseminating the historical value of this tale.
Jefferson not in America: Identity and Liminality in the Early Republic
By Shevaun E. Watson

A movie about Jefferson may be doomed from the start, because, as Gordon Wood notes, “Jefferson scarcely seems to exist as a real historical person. . . . The human Jefferson was essentially a man of the 18th century, a very intelligent and bookish slaveholding southern planter, enlightened and progressive no doubt, but possessing as many weaknesses as strengths, as much folly as wisdom, as much blindness as foresight.” Jefferson in Paris attempts -- and probably fails -- to capture the subtleties and contradictions of Jefferson, the slave-holding aristocrat and the democratic idealist. But what I think is so interesting about the film -- why I think it deserves some attention despite its flaws -- is not what it attempts...