Did Sally Hemings And Thomas Jefferson Love Each Other?

A historian tackles one of American history’s thorniest questions

In the nearly 11 years since the publication of my book Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy, I have traveled throughout the United States and overseas talking about them—and life and slavery at Monticello. Writers are, in the main, solitary creatures. Or, at least, the process of writing forces us into solitude for long stretches of time; I find it refreshing and gratifying to meet people who have read one’s work (or plan to) and have questions, observations, and opinions about it.Read more »

Children Of Monticello

In Virginia, a quarrel is going on about who can be allowed to lie in a family graveyard. Because the family is Thomas Jefferson’s, the outcome of the dispute is important to every American.

All graveyards are sacred ground, the one at Monticello no more sacred than any other. As an acknowledged descendant of Thomas Jefferson, I have the birthright to be buried in the family graveyard at Monticello near the spot where we buried my father last year and my mother the year before.

 
 
 
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Tom And Sally And Frank And Me

A Jefferson descendant on luck, ancestry, and the meaning of the DNA findings

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Jefferson’s Shame?

Bernard A. Weisberger’s well-balanced look at the Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings story (“In the News,” November 1997) led me to wonder anew at both the staying power and the meaning of this tale. Just what is it that is so scandalous here? What is it that Jefferson’s detractors have trumpeted and his supporters denied for nearly two centuries? Read more »

Thomas Jefferson’s Unknown Grandchildren

A STUDY IN HISTORICAL SILENCES

Although he married only once, Thomas Jefferson had two families. The first was by his wife, Martha Wayles Jefferson; the second, after her death, was by her young half sister, Jefferson’s quadroon slave Sally Hemings. This was known and eagerly publicized by the anti-Jefferson press during his first term as President. Despite pleas of Republican editors to deny the liaison, Jefferson maintained then, and thereafter to his death, a tight-lipped silence. Read more »

The Great Jefferson Taboo

Did Thomas Jefferson, widowed at thirty-nine, take as a mistress Sally Hemings, the beautiful quadroon half sister of his late wife? This careful study of the known facts and of the long, bitter argument on the subject is the work of a seasoned scholar. Fawn Brodie, professor of history at the University of California at Los Angeles, has published widely acclaimed biographies of Joseph Smith, Thaddeus Stevens, and Sir Richard Burton. The material she presents here is the basis, in part, of a forthcoming longer study.Read more »