Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

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
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first previous 1-2021-4041-6061-80 ... 201-214 next last
To: John Robertson
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!

Yes, but we will never know what the TRUTH of this matter is. The 'facts' in the article above are no more definitive than the claims of the other side.

Neither side has anything but allegations and vague statistics.

Does either position make Thomas Jefferson less of a great man, indeed a Renaissance Man, and patriot?


41 posted on 12/16/2003 12:10:41 PM PST by Servant of the 9 (Think of it as Evolution In Action)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 31 | View Replies]

To: VRWCmember
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.

I agree. I would prefer provable fact in place of the ongoing speculation. However it turns out matters not to me. If Tom and Sally were an item, I hope they both enjoyed the relationship. It is not right that a great man or a humble slave be lonely. OTOH, if Jefferson was true in life to Martha, let it be known. It won't make him a saint. Those of us who have spent the time to read about Jefferson know he was just a man. As remarkable as he may be to our history and Republic.

42 posted on 12/16/2003 12:11:30 PM PST by elbucko
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 18 | View Replies]

To: petitfour
I think your professor was undoubtedly right. I think the solid preponderance of the evidence establishes Thomas Jefferson is not the father the Hemmings children. I'm not sure why you see it as an open question when an historian you respect, who dislikes Jefferson but looked at all the evidence carefully, concludes Jefferson could not have been the father.

What I find interesting is that our actual understanding after the Blue Ribbon Commission, hasn't really advanced much from what Dumas Malone wrote some 50 years ago: it was a Jefferson male, but almost certainly not Thomas.

43 posted on 12/16/2003 12:15:06 PM PST by CatoRenasci (Ceterum Censeo [Gallia][Germania][Arabia] Esse Delendam --- Select One or More as needed)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 39 | View Replies]

To: elbucko
A little known fact is when Sally went to Paris she could have stayed behind. France had a law that any slave who landed on french soil was free, sort of like our wet foot-dry foot policy. To me she had to love him to go back to America and being a slave.
44 posted on 12/16/2003 12:16:54 PM PST by cyborg
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 42 | View Replies]

To: ClearCase_guy
In short: this is useful as a smear on a great American.

I don't see that.

At the time this may have occurred, Sally Hemmings was Thomas Jeffersons Property.
Anything he may or may not have done was neither illegal nor immoral in that context.
That it may be illegal or immoral today is irrelevant.
It did not happen today.
Therefore there can be no smear.


45 posted on 12/16/2003 12:17:05 PM PST by Servant of the 9 (Think of it as Evolution In Action)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 26 | View Replies]

To: dion
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.) :)

That certainly bears repeating!

2 key ideas are here: First, that what Jefferson did on behalf of this country stands on its own as the product of his intellect and his character. The words and warning that are his real legacy to this country and the world are true no matter what he may or may not have done in his private life. Second, one must ALWAYS look to the motivation of those who seek to tear down an individual. In this case it is clear that smearing so revered a figure as TJ is the perfect way to excuse allegedly similar behavior by WJC.

46 posted on 12/16/2003 12:17:46 PM PST by Ancesthntr
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: cyborg
The Jefferson buckled shoe in black patent leather. Simple, elegant without making a big fuss about it. Men's sizes 7-14.
47 posted on 12/16/2003 12:18:26 PM PST by ffusco (Maecilius Fuscus,Governor of Longovicium , Manchester, England. 238-244 AD)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 37 | View Replies]

To: ffusco
LOL... actually his shirt was more like a little dress on me.
48 posted on 12/16/2003 12:19:40 PM PST by cyborg
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 47 | View Replies]

To: CatoRenasci
It is all VERY silly and merely a reflection of the worthless level of academic games these days.

One can't even blame it on Black Americans. They may be this age's reigning criminal class (it has been Irish and Italians at other times), but academia is forever trying to lower the standards for them down to whatever level allows them to crawl into college, having been cheated out of a decent public education.

So why not spread sheer nonsense like this as received history? Good for their self-esteem.

49 posted on 12/16/2003 12:21:19 PM PST by Clodia Pulcher (There can be no more overpaid profession than "education...")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 43 | View Replies]

To: petitfour
The story about Jefferson having mistresses in Paris (this was after the death of his wife) is almost certainly true: he was celebrated in France and moved in the highest social circles and most elite salons, and many attractive aristocratic women wanted him.

An interesting comment on Sally comes, as you may recall, from Abigail Adams, who met Sally in London as she accompanied Jefferson's daughter to France (sometime after Jefferson). Adams thought she was an immature teen-aged child, hardly able to act effectively as Miss Jefferson's servant. Sally apparently was given the opportunity for some education during her time in Paris. (That would be consistent with her being Jefferson's wife's half-sister). Those who knew her and knew Jefferson at the time found the notion of an affair (alleged by Callendar) risable.

50 posted on 12/16/2003 12:21:50 PM PST by CatoRenasci (Ceterum Censeo [Gallia][Germania][Arabia] Esse Delendam --- Select One or More as needed)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 39 | View Replies]

To: tcuoohjohn
The phenomenon of interracial progeny in was, if not common, then frequent enough for commentators of the day to note it.

Why constrain the phenomenon to times past. Why, even now, I'd rather be the bastard son of Jefferson and Hemmings, than the legitimate offspring of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

51 posted on 12/16/2003 12:21:57 PM PST by elbucko
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 36 | View Replies]

To: yankhater
Thomas Jefferson ping. What are your thoughts re: Reply No. 10?
52 posted on 12/16/2003 12:24:36 PM PST by HenryLeeII
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: CatoRenasci
Excellent summary. But, as you see, even from postings here, no proof is all proof for those who want to or are predisposed to believe the fable regardless of the lack of any incontovertible proof.
53 posted on 12/16/2003 12:25:09 PM PST by AmericanVictory (Should we be more like them, or they like us?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: elbucko
ABC anyone but clinton
54 posted on 12/16/2003 12:25:34 PM PST by cyborg
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 51 | View Replies]

To: cyborg
55 posted on 12/16/2003 12:27:24 PM PST by elbucko
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 54 | View Replies]

To: centurion316
Ping, pass to the Jefferson cousins
56 posted on 12/16/2003 12:28:27 PM PST by centurion316
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: *CCRM; Peacerose; Shermy; seamole; Fred25; Free ThinkerNY; ouroboros; ChaseR; A.J.Armitage; ...
57 posted on 12/16/2003 12:31:32 PM PST by mrustow
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Clodia Pulcher
I agree, and am very glad I am not in academia any more. (Though, sometimes I feel guilty at having left and deserted the field to the likes of these leftist scum!) My specialized field was the Enlightenment, so I have spent more than a fair amount of time on the Founding Fathers, especially Jefferson, and did some research in respect of his sojourn in France. IMHO, there is no way TJ was involved with Hemmings when he had his pick of the beauties of the French Court. But, you can't tell the truth to people who don't understand how to evaluate historical evidence and expect them to believe you.
58 posted on 12/16/2003 12:33:25 PM PST by CatoRenasci (Ceterum Censeo [Gallia][Germania][Arabia] Esse Delendam --- Select One or More as needed)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 49 | View Replies]

To: codeword; dennisw; veronica; onyx; Diogenesis; Ernest_at_the_Beach; Pokey78; rockfish59; ...
59 posted on 12/16/2003 12:33:36 PM PST by mrustow
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: CatoRenasci
Hubby and I are usually inclined to agree with our dear, distinguished professor. However, I do not buy the Jefferson was an old man theory and incapable of carrying on with the nanny. After visiting Monticello, we had a different sense of Jefferson. I could certainly use with more study, however.

Speaking of Monticello, I would recommend to anyone who wants to know about American history to go there. Jefferson's vision for this new nation came from the vision he could see atop his mountain. Beautiful place. And that is an understatement.
60 posted on 12/16/2003 12:33:50 PM PST by petitfour
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 43 | View Replies]

Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first previous 1-2021-4041-6061-80 ... 201-214 next last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson