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Giving Thomas Jefferson the Business: The Jefferson-Hemings Hoax
A Different Drummer/Middle American News ^ | December, 2003 | Nicholas Stix

Posted on 12/16/2003 11:18:44 AM PST by mrustow

In today’s America, a race hoax industry manned by black activists and their white benefactors in the media, politics, and academia produces one outrage after another, with the aim of denigrating white heroes, elevating often obscure blacks, making black racists rich and powerful, and waging race war.

So it is with the smear invented in 1802, and in recent years conscripted anew to sully the name of arguably the most brilliant of all of America's Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826). The Jefferson-Hemings Hoax claims, without any evidence, that the third president, renaissance man, and author of the Declaration of Independence fathered the children of slave Sally Hemings (1773-1835). Hoaxers seek to drag Jefferson through the mud, expropriate his legacy on behalf of Hemings' descendants, and supplant scholarship with Afrocentric propaganda. The perpetrators of the Jefferson-Hemings hoax seek, without firing a single shot, to rob the American people of their patrimony.

In July, the New York Times published articles by Jefferson descendant, Lucian Truscott IV, and Times staffers James Dao and Brent Staples, insisting that “most everyone knows” (Truscott) that Jefferson had fathered some or all of Hemings’ children. Dao alleged that “compelling” DNA evidence existed, while Staples spoke of a “new reality” that vindicated the claims made for generations by “the black oral tradition.”

Truscott, Dao, and Staples all left out of their tales, that there is no evidence that Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings ever were lovers, that based on genetic evidence, any one of at least 25 men on Jefferson’s side of the family may have fathered one or more of Hemings’ children (Jefferson family historian Herbert Barger argues persuasively that Jefferson’s brother, Randolph, was Hemings’ lover.), and that the Jefferson paternity story was born as the fabrication of a disappointed office seeker (James Thomson Callender) with a history of libeling the Founding Fathers. Truscott and Staples resorted instead to insinuating that only a racist would deny the story.

The same race-baiting strategy prevails in academia, where scholar David N. Mayer observes, “…among many proponents of the Jefferson paternity claim there has emerged a truly disturbing McCarthyist-like inquisition that has cast its pall over Jefferson scholarship today. Questioning the validity of the claim has been equated with the denigration of African Americans and the denial of their rightful place in American history.”

Here’s what is known: Thomas Jefferson owned a slave named Sally Hemings. Hemings bore at least six children, but otherwise, little is known about her. During Hemings’ childbearing years, not even within the Jefferson clan, was she known as Thomas Jefferson’s lover.

In 1798, scandal-mongering newspaper editor James T. Callender, was imprisoned by President John Adams, under the Sedition Act. When Jefferson was elected president, and Callender freed, Callender demanded the job of postmaster of Richmond, Va. The demand was also a veiled threat. Although Jefferson had been Callender’s benefactor, he refused to meet the latter’s demand. Callender responded, in 1802, by loosing his libel on the world, claiming that Jefferson had a slave “concubine” named “Sally,” with whom he had fathered a child named “Tom.” (There is no evidence Hemings then had a son named Tom; her son, Thomas Eston, was not born until 1808.) Callender sought unsuccessfully to destroy Jefferson politically. In 1805, Jefferson privately denied the claim, and the myth died off.

After Jefferson’s death, propagandists periodically dug up the Callender hoax.

In 1954, racist Ebony magazine editor, Lerone Bennett Jr. (who later, in Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America, would claim that African seafarers had reached America before Europeans did), revived the hoax in an Ebony story.

In the 1970s, the myth was recycled by white “psychohistorian” Fawn Brodie, who simply projected her whimsical speculations onto the historical record.

The modern turning point in the hoax came with black law professor Annette Gordon-Reed’s 1997 book, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy. Gordon-Reed uncritically accepted certain black oral traditions, heaped abuse on leading Jefferson biographers, and misrepresented the contents of an 1858 letter by Jefferson’s granddaughter, Ellen Randolph Coolidge, to her husband, in which Coolidge had denied the possibility of a Jefferson-Hemings liaison.

Bryan Craig, research librarian at the Jefferson Library, at Monticello, Jefferson’s estate, faxed this reporter a photocopy of the original Coolidge letter.

The letter actually said, "His [Jefferson’s] apartments had no private entrance not perfectly accessible and visible to all the household. No female domestic ever entered his chambers except at hours when he was known not to be there and none could have entered without being exposed to the public gaze."

In Prof. Gordon-Reed’s hands, the second sentence changed, as if by magic, to "No female domestic ever entered his chambers except at hours when he was known not to be in the public gaze."

Gordon-Reed’s changes turned the letter’s meaning on its head, supporting claims that Jefferson could have had secret trysts with Hemings. Either Gordon-Reed committed one of the most dramatic copying errors in the annals of academia, or one of the most egregious acts of academic fraud of the past generation.

Ironically, it was Prof. Gordon-Reed, who politely, promptly, directed me to the Jefferson Library, where I obtained a copy of the original Coolidge letter. After I e-mailed her three times about the discrepancy, Prof. Gordon-Reed finally responded, “As to the discrepancy, there was an error in transcription in my book. It was corrected for future printings.”

In January, 2000, a panel of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation (TJMF, since renamed the Thomas Jefferson Foundation), which owns Jefferson’s Monticello home, released its Monticello report claiming there was a “strong likelihood” that Jefferson had fathered ALL of Hemings’ children.

The “scholars” who prepared the tendentious, 2000 Monticello report, led by Prof. Gordon-Reed’s reported friends, Dianne Swann-Wright and Lucia Stanton, could not be bothered to study the original Coolidge letter, and instead cited the false version published in Gordon-Reed’s book. Likewise, in 2000, Boston PBS station, WGBH, presented a “documentary,” Jefferson’s Blood, which perpetuated the hoax. The Monticello Report still cites the altered Coolidge letter (on p. 6, under "Primary Sources", and the PBS/WGBH web site for Jefferson’s Blood still has the phony version posted, in its entirety,, three years after it was proven to be false, a practice typical of the Jefferson-Hemings hoax industry as a whole.

While in her book, Prof. Gordon-Reed purports not to take a position on whether Jefferson and Hemings were lovers, she takes the lawyer’s tack of “Plan B” made famous by the TV show, The Practice. She attacks all of the most celebrated white biographers of Jefferson, such as Dumas Malone, while accepting at face value dubious black oral traditions. Thus does Prof. Gordon-Reed set up the reader to fall for the hoax, with the false Coolidge letter providing the knockout punch. Supportive reviewers insisted that Gordon-Reed had proved the “possibility” of such an affair, ignoring the fact that unlike fiction, history is about what DID transpire, not what COULD HAVE transpired.

The party of tenured academic hoaxers now insists that the burden of proof rests on those who deny the existence of a Jefferson-Hemings liaison, to prove a negative! And so does the politics of racism enjoy yet another triumph over the truth.

In November, 1998, Nature magazine published an article based on the research of a team of scientists led by Dr. Eugene Foster, with the dishonest title, “Jefferson Fathered Slave’s Last Child.”

Although Foster & Co. could not possibly have confirmed (as opposed to disconfirming) Jefferson’s paternity, they leaped over the evidence to Foster’s desired conclusion: “The simplest and most probable explanations for our molecular findings "are that Thomas Jefferson … was the father of Eston Hemings Jefferson [sic] …”

Foster & Co. studied DNA from male-line descendants of Thomas Jefferson’s paternal uncle, Field Jefferson (who would have the same male Y chromosome as Thomas Jefferson), and from male-line descendants of Hemings’ last son, Eston, determining that one Jefferson male was Eston’s father. But that left at least 25 Jefferson men as candidates!

(An accompanying article in Nature by liberal historians Joseph Ellis and Eric Lander, sought to exploit the hoax, to rescue the authors’ sexually compromised hero, Bill Clinton.)

Descendants of Sally Hemings' son, Madison, refused to permit Madison's son, William, to be exhumed. Such cooperation would have resulted either in Madison's being shown to be the offspring of some male-line Jefferson, or of his being genetically excluded from the Jefferson line.

But male-line descendants of slave Thomas Woodson, whose family oral tradition insists he was born to Jefferson and Hemings, were genetically excluded from the Jefferson line. (The Thomas C. Woodson Family Association has ignored the finding.) Woodson has been assumed by the hoaxers to be the slave whom James T. Callender claimed was Hemings' first child (“Tom”). Either Woodson was not Hemings' son, or Hemings was not monogamous. If the former case is true, James T. Callender was a complete and utter liar. If the latter case is true, black oral traditions and contemporary pseudo-scholarship that have claimed that Hemings carried on an almost 40-year, monogamous love affair with Thomas Jefferson are refuted, and Hemings was not involved with ANY Jefferson male in late 1780s Paris, the time and place the legend insists the affair began.

Unscrupulous journalists and professors immediately insisted that the Foster study had “proven” that Jefferson was the father of Hemings’ children. The spirit of James T. Callender was alive and well.

The other source of claims of Jefferson’s paternity is the “black oral tradition.” However, the hoaxers have ignored Hemings descendants’ mutually contradictory oral traditions, the DNA evidence, the fact that Eston Hemings never claimed to be Jefferson’s child, and scholars’ persuasive argument that the “black oral tradition” that insists on Jefferson’s paternity, is itself the bastard offspring of the Callender hoax.

Racist black professors and journalists, and their elite white allies, now insist that black oral history be given pride of place over documentary evidence. But oral history has always been the stuff of myth, and in the case of the black tradition, often racist myth. Relying on “oral history” would open the door to instant historical rewrites through contemporary black race hoaxes.

Scandalized by the TJMF’s conduct, a group of scholars formed a blue-ribbon Scholars Commission. Excepting one dissent, its members found no evidence to support the Hemings story. Dissenter Paul A. Rahe, determined that although it was for him somewhat likelier than not that Thomas Jefferson fathered Eston Hemings (1808-?), ultimately the case was inconclusive. The Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society was also formed, and in 2001 published the invaluable book, The Jefferson-Hemings Myth: An American Travesty, that is highly critical of the Foster and TJMF reports, and accompanying media and academic circus.

The Jefferson-Hemings story is a case study in the use of scholarly and journalistic fraud and racial intimidation by people for whom the written word functions solely as a weapon in a race war. The Jefferson-Hemings hoaxers seek to steal America’s history, and replace it with a counterfeit version, in order to oppress America’s white majority.

Originally published in the December, 2000, Middle American News.

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Front Page News; News/Current Events; Philosophy; US: New York; US: Virginia
KEYWORDS: academia; annettegordonreed; brentstaples; bryancraig; ccrm; counterhistory; davidnmayer; dianneswannwright; diversity; dumasmalone; ellencoolidge; ericlander; estonhemings; eugenefoster; fawnbrodie; fieldjefferson; herbertbarger; hoax; jamesdao; jamestcallender; jeffersonlibrary; jeffersonsblood; josephellis; leronebennettjr; luciantruscottiv; luciastanton; madisonhemings; monticelloreport; naturemagazine; newyorktimes; paularahe; race; racehoaxes; sallyhemings; slavery; thomasjefferson; thomaswoodson; tjmf; williamhemings
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Devastating expose of one of the biggest race hoaxes in recent years.
1 posted on 12/16/2003 11:18:45 AM PST by mrustow
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To: mrustow
Does it really matter?
I don't see this as particularly slanderous, nor did the acusations seem to have hurt him during his lifetime.
I don't think the revelations that were acknowledged true today about Strom Thurmans 'love child' are going to damage his reputation.
Whether we are speaking of Thurman or Jefferson, it is a non-issue.

Thomas Jefferson was a radical in every sense of the word.
It was not until the 20th Century that norms had changed enough that even the Democrat Party wanted to claim him as one of their own.

No one is gonna prove any of this either way.

2 posted on 12/16/2003 11:31:48 AM PST by Servant of the 9 (Think of it as Evolution In Action)
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To: mrustow
The basic retelling is manipulated by a lot of people. Sally Hemmings was half white, the half sister of his wife. She probably looked A LOT like his dead wife. Why do people have such a problem with this? Thomas Jefferson was a human being not a god.
3 posted on 12/16/2003 11:32:37 AM PST by cyborg
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To: cyborg
The DNA testing that was performed proved that "A" Jefferson was the father.Not necessarily Thomas Jefferson. That confirmation is lost to history.
4 posted on 12/16/2003 11:34:51 AM PST by Puppage (You may disagree with what I have to say, but I will defend to your death my right to say it)
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To: mrustow
Madison Hemings seems to have claimed that his mother told him that Jefferson was his father. At any rate on the 1870 census the census taker wrote next to Madison Hemings' name that "this man is the son of Thomas Jefferson"--which can only mean that Madison told him that. Whether he was telling the truth about what his mother had told him, or whether Sally was telling the truth if she did say that, are other questions. Fawn Brodie turned up an 1873 newspaper article which reported Madison Hemings' claims (but he admitted that Jefferson never treated him as if he considered him his son).

I don't know what the truth of the matter is, but I could understand Madison Hemings preferring to tell people "I am the son of Thomas Jefferson" instead of "I am the son of Thomas Jefferson's brother."

5 posted on 12/16/2003 11:36:16 AM PST by Verginius Rufus
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To: cyborg
It's sloppy research, for one thing. Dishonest, for another. Historical revisionism is never valuable.
6 posted on 12/16/2003 11:36:42 AM PST by AmishDude
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To: Puppage
So we will never conclusively know. Both sides have an agenda in saying he IS or ISN'T the father. The black people want Sally Hemmings to be this caricature of Oprah from Color Purple when she was in fact a very educated, mulatto nanny. The other side wants to Thomas Jefferson to be elevated to sainthood. I tend to believe he did father children for Sally from what I have read in the past.
7 posted on 12/16/2003 11:37:37 AM PST by cyborg
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To: Servant of the 9
I agree with you. I don't know why anyone thinks that this story, true or not, in any way discredits the legacy of Thomas Jefferson. Personally, I think he was the most important founding father and find many of his quotes to be very prophetic about a lot of the problems we have today. How him possibly sleeping with Sally Hemmings in any way voids his contributions to this country is beyond me. (Ironically these same people would argue that the Monica Lewinsky scandal didn't matter because it was only about sex.) :)
8 posted on 12/16/2003 11:39:38 AM PST by dion
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To: mrustow
Ah yes, Annette Gordon-Reed....

Remember C-SPAN's excellent AMERICAN PRESIDENTS series? They did right by most of the Founding Fathers, going into fascinating detail about their lives and presidencies.... but when it came time to do the show on Jefferson, they brought in Annette Gordon-Reed and spent THE ENTIRE TWO HOURS debating whether the 3rd President had a kid with one of his slaves. A tragic waste of a show.

9 posted on 12/16/2003 11:40:06 AM PST by Flux Capacitor (Deck us all with Boston Charlie)
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To: mrustow
TJ originally hired Callender to print lies about Adams but since TJ was a chronic debtor he was unable to pay Callender for his "services". TJ also lied to his old friend Adams about his sponsorship of the slanders Callender wrote. When Jefferson refused to pay Callender, he retaliated by printing the TJ/slave story. DNA testing indicates a Jefferson male did in fact boink his slaves but it does not narrow it down to TJ himself. Given TJ's duplicitious deceptive nature, I wouldn't put it past him.

Jefferson brought this on himself.

10 posted on 12/16/2003 11:40:52 AM PST by AdamSelene235 (I always shoot for the moon......sometimes I hit London.- Von Braun)
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To: AmishDude
I agree that historical revisionism is never valuable. However, how would Thomas Jefferson fathering children change what he did? At least he didn't do it while he was married. Oh well.
11 posted on 12/16/2003 11:41:09 AM PST by cyborg
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To: dion
Didn't Benjamin Franklin have a child in illegitimacy too?
12 posted on 12/16/2003 11:42:08 AM PST by cyborg
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To: cyborg
I won't concede the revisionists their premise. It only justifies what they have done.
13 posted on 12/16/2003 11:43:18 AM PST by AmishDude
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To: mrustow
I've always been a Jefferson fan (although sometimes a critical one). Years before any of this was popular, I read Dumas Malone's massive six volume Thomas Jefferson, which dealt with the Hemmings matter rather straighforwardly in an appendix, and concluded that some Jefferson male, probably Randolph, had fathered the Hemmings children. Either Randolph or a nephew (also a possibility) was a nortorious rake-hell and generally rumored to cut a wide swath among the slave women.

The further interesting fact, and a possible reason why Jefferson freed Hemmings and her progeny in his will, is that she may well have been an illegitimate daughter of Jefferson's wife, Martha's father (making her a half-sister to Martha).

Then came the report in 1997 -- knowing the story well, I wondered why the authors discounted the possibility of Randolph being the culprit, as the DNA did not in any way point directly to Jefferson, just to a Jefferson familiy male. The DNA would have been complicated, also, if it is true that Hemmings and Jefferson's wife Martha shared the same father.

So, I was much relieved to read the 2000 blue ribbon scholars report, which I commend to anyone intrested. I remain convinced Thomas Jefferson was not responsible for Sally Hemmings children.

14 posted on 12/16/2003 11:46:42 AM PST by CatoRenasci (Ceterum Censeo [Gallia][Germania][Arabia] Esse Delendam --- Select One or More as needed)
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To: AmishDude
Yes I see your point. I heard Rush talking about Jesse Jackson today. Jesse is apparently making comparisions to Jefferson and Thurmond. Big difference. There's paternity and apparently most of Thurmond's family is acknowledging the lady's existence and being part of the family.

I wouldn't want to give an edge to the revisionists either.
15 posted on 12/16/2003 11:47:05 AM PST by cyborg
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To: Servant of the 9
In most respects you are right, it doesn't matter in this day of unmorality. However, at the time this scandel was "reborn" for the umpteenth time, the amoral Bill Clinton and his band of defenders were trying to show that "all presidents" were philanderers and he was just another one of them. "So what's the big deal," was their approach.
16 posted on 12/16/2003 11:47:56 AM PST by elephantlips
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To: mrustow
...liberal historians Joseph Ellis and Eric Lander, sought to exploit the hoax, to rescue the authors’ sexually compromised hero, Bill Clinton.

IMO, the motive for the entire expose` was to lower Jefferson down to Bill Clinton's level in an attempt to protect Clinton. Considering Clinton and the group he rode in on, it's to be expected of them. As for Jefferson, I don't care if he fathered no slaves or twenty, it neither robs me of my respect for him, or breaks my faith in Jefferson's character.

17 posted on 12/16/2003 11:49:17 AM PST by elbucko
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To: cyborg
I tend to believe he did father children for Sally from what I have read in the past.

And how much of what you "have read in the past" is based on either sloppy transcription or outright academic fraud like the information described in the article?

I think there is a third side: one that neither seeks to elevate TJ to sainthood, nor to morph Hemmings into the image of some fictional character, but rather hopes to have the historical record left intact without politically correct revisionism.

18 posted on 12/16/2003 11:49:49 AM PST by VRWCmember (We apologise for the fault in the taglines. Those responsible have been sacked.)
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To: elbucko
I agree. BTW, why is my posting comment opening up in a new window?
19 posted on 12/16/2003 11:50:31 AM PST by cyborg
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To: cyborg
from what I have read in the past

Yeah, I tend to agree with you.

20 posted on 12/16/2003 11:51:56 AM PST by Puppage (You may disagree with what I have to say, but I will defend to your death my right to say it)
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