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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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To: justshutupandtakeit
21 posted on 12/16/2003 11:52:17 AM PST by AdamSelene235 (I always shoot for the moon......sometimes I hit London.- Von Braun)
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To: VRWCmember
We will never know so yes I think it should be left alone. You know how human beings are,they're never satisfied.
22 posted on 12/16/2003 11:53:12 AM PST by cyborg
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To: Servant of the 9
Their whole point of bringing this up as they did in 1997 was to show that OTHER respected Presidents also had sex with the hired help. Plain and simple.
If Jefferson did it, what's the big deal now? yuh-huh, yuh-huh, yuh-huh.....
23 posted on 12/16/2003 11:53:28 AM PST by JustPlainJoe
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To: Servant of the 9
It is an expose not only of the lies -- but the tacticts of lies (aka PROPAGANDA) that many on this list seem to ignore or gloss over.

It is not so much what is being said as HOW it was said. That is the best propaganda tactic because you cannot write it down in black & white for proof.

Inflection in speech - a sentence that endswith a lower tone towards the end gives the impresion of sadness or seriousness - where a higher tone denotes glee or ire.

You can "hear" a sneering tone of voice if you listen to ABC radio news when they mention President Bush or anything pro American. The TV does the same, but you have to close your eyes to hear it. TV is much better for propaganda because you don't hear it - it just infects you.

Listen to the stock market reports - eyes closed ...

pro feeling (higer pitched faster speech) The DOW rose 10 points in optomistic trade"

con feeling (slower and lower tone) "the DOW rose 10 points despite the news from...."

Con feeling (higher tone -happy- fast speech) the dow fell more than 1/2 percent...

THAT is the methods of propaganda by the media - written down, it's only data - heard live, a different result.

24 posted on 12/16/2003 11:55:03 AM PST by steplock (
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To: Puppage
I think it's a bit sad. How would this change a person's life to know that Jefferson was in their family tree?? I like to look back on relatives, but I am alive right now.
25 posted on 12/16/2003 11:56:36 AM PST by cyborg
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To: Servant of the 9
No one is gonna prove any of this either way.

The Truth is not known.
The Truth cannot be known.

It makes no sense for anyone to profit from this, since it is an unknown. Now, ask yourself: are fans of Thomas Jefferson talking about Sally Hammings all the time? Are they saying Jefferson was a GOD! Why? Because he never fathered a child with this woman! Isn't that great?!

Wouldn't that be a silly claim? In no way can this alleged incident be used to boost Jefferson's reputation. As why should it? There's no proof, so fans of Jefferson have no reason to say much of anything on the topic.

BUT ... people who want to claim "everybody does it" have a real reason to smear him with an unsubstantiated "fact". Oh, sure, we don't know for sure, ... but, you know, everybody does it ... and one of the Jefferson men did it ... and, you know, it could have been Tom ... so, that's almost like proving that he was a hound-dog, right? So, I guess we can ignore all the verified sex scandals too ... because, you know ... even Thomas Jefferson did it.

In short: this is useful as a smear on a great American. The story can serve no other purpose. We don't have to declare Thomas Jefferson a saint, but we should say that this is an unfounded, unsubstantiated smear job. It has no use as anything else.

26 posted on 12/16/2003 11:56:52 AM PST by ClearCase_guy (France delenda est)
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To: mrustow
Here’s what is known: Thomas Jefferson owned a slave named Sally Hemings.

How much more likely then, that Jefferson fathered one of her children. If she lived on his property, it would have been very peculiar for other members of Jefferson's family to pay a visit to his slave. Can you just see them sneaking around back, on an ostensible visit to Jefferson - it just isn't plausible. And how would such a relationship with one of his relatives have been initiated? It just makes more sense that a relationship would have developed between Jefferson and his slave - though, with him being in a position of authority, how much of a relationship would that have been?

27 posted on 12/16/2003 11:58:32 AM PST by my_pointy_head_is_sharp
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To: cyborg
Jesse Jackson is Richard Milhouse Nixon's illegitimate
love child. Micheal Jackson, too!
28 posted on 12/16/2003 11:58:44 AM PST by Jim Cane
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To: cyborg
BTW, why is my posting comment opening up in a new window?

Beats me! The only thing I know how to do with computers is break them.

29 posted on 12/16/2003 11:58:59 AM PST by elbucko
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To: elbucko
LOL I think the new fangled pager thing popped up and I didn't realize it. Oh well.
30 posted on 12/16/2003 11:59:34 AM PST by cyborg
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To: Servant of the 9
It matters. The truth always matters. Something is or it isn't, and dissemblers and liars shouldn't be given a pass on manipulating a COUNTRY! The vast majority of Americans now think Thomas Jefferson indeed fathered kids with Sally Hemmings, and there is not yet conclusive proof of that. For those who would make political hay out of such a "fact," that national delusion is very useful. It matters.
31 posted on 12/16/2003 11:59:34 AM PST by John Robertson
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To: Jim Cane
LOL please and Jackson loves to insert himself into situations while his son is squirreling away babies. Like father, like son.
32 posted on 12/16/2003 12:00:57 PM PST by cyborg
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To: VRWCmember
A long time ago I posted Thomas Jefferson: Radical and Racist, a Conor Cruise O'Brien article that appeared in the Atlantic back in 1996. (O'Brien argued that Jefferson should be drummed out of the roll of the Founding Fathers.)

The article produced some fine, reasoned debate on FR, but unfortunately I can't find that original thread.

The Atlantic article is not bad, but it's a bit strident.

33 posted on 12/16/2003 12:02:10 PM PST by Publius
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To: cyborg
Didn't Benjamin Franklin have a child in illegitimacy too?

Yep --- the governor of New Jersey. William, though, didn't agree with his dad's politics, and chose to stay loyal to the King. The bastard....

34 posted on 12/16/2003 12:02:32 PM PST by SpringheelJack
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To: cyborg
How would this change a person's life

That's a GREAT question. Monetarily speaking, I doubt it would do much of anything, but I think that if one leads an honest life then this would just add to it. Certainly would be quite the conversation starter, don't ya think?

35 posted on 12/16/2003 12:04:33 PM 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
well...I think on the basis of the preponderance of the evidence ( The historical standard) it is fairly clear that Jefferson fathered one of more children by Sally Hemmings.

I am sure that there are last ditchers who, for emotional reasons, feel compelled to deny that. I see no slander against Jefferson in that reasonable assertion. He was man of his times and of his class. The phenomenon of interracial progeny in was, if not common, then frequent enough for commentators of the day to note it.

I guess they can find some strained method to question the DNA evidence or come up with a very convoluted and tortured explanation for it. But is you put Occam's Razor to the question it isn't all that complex.

If fully expect somebody to come up with an odd explanation of the Strom Thurmond issue by claiming that it wasn't Strom but his long dead third cousin from Aiken who happened to visit the family within the month that Miss Butler was impregnated in 1925 etc...etc.
36 posted on 12/16/2003 12:04:40 PM PST by tcuoohjohn (Follow The Money)
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To: SpringheelJack
Thanks for the verify. It does not change the fact that Franklin was a great man. However, the race politics climate being what it is, I can understand the furor over the paternity of Jefferson. It would not make me think less of Jefferson, or stop buying his shirts out of the J.Peterman catalog for that matter.
37 posted on 12/16/2003 12:05:55 PM PST by cyborg
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To: my_pointy_head_is_sharp
You have obviously not read very much about the Jefferson household or the Hemmings Controversy. There were always lots of people around, including other Jefferson male family members, coming and going more or less as they pleased, staying for week to month long visits. As Malone documents, at least one of them (I just can't remember whether it was Brother Randolph or one of the nephews) had a nortorious reputation as sleeping with many of the slave women, and this individual was also known to be around Monticello at the approximate times most of Hemmings' children were likely conceived. This has all been known for 50 years and more, some of it for more than 100 years, if anyone cared to look in the scholarly biographies. Any white male, especially the relative of a slave owner, and even more especially the relative of a slave owner when the master was away, could easily exercise authority over a female slave, and could probably have his way with her. The Jefferson male with the reputation as a rake-hell was known to be charming and would carouse with the slave women, plying them with liquor.

All this is much more plausible than the idea that a 60+ year old man (when that was quite old) was busy shagging the help.

38 posted on 12/16/2003 12:07:32 PM PST by CatoRenasci (Ceterum Censeo [Gallia][Germania][Arabia] Esse Delendam --- Select One or More as needed)
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To: CatoRenasci
I'm not convinced either way on this. I lean more toward believing that Jefferson did father Hemings children. However, that doesn't make it so. My favorite professor was on the Blue Ribbon Commission, and he has never liked Jefferson. He read all the evidence that the Commission had and, despite his disdain for Jefferson, concluded that Jefferson could not have fathered the Hemings children. He believed Jefferson's migraines, among other things, prohibited him from sexual relations at the time of conception for at least the youngest of Hemings' children.

If Jefferson wasn't intimate with his slave, then who were his women friends? There is a film at Monticello (the welcome center or museum or whatever it is) that mentions Jefferson having an affair with some married British female while he was a diplomat in Paris. I do not think Jefferson was celibate all those years after that.

Another thing, didn't President Bush welcome the Jefferson and Hemings descendants to the White House right around the time that the Commission's report came out?
39 posted on 12/16/2003 12:08:14 PM PST by petitfour
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To: Puppage; All

This is from the official society that runs the Jefferson place. It's where I used to get shirts and seeds from his garden. This where I get a lot of my Sally info from.

40 posted on 12/16/2003 12:09:36 PM PST by cyborg
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