Hemings book wins National Book Award

Last night in New York, New York University law professor Annette Gordon-Reed won the National Book Award for nonfiction for her groundbreaking study of Sally Hemings and three generations of her extended family The Hemingses of Monticello. Among the more surprising revelations in this book, Gordon-Reed's second book of scholarship on Thomas Jefferson, is that Hemings was actually the half-sister of Jefferson's late wife Martha.

5 comments

It's been well known that Hemings was Matha's half-sister for well over a hundred years. Its not a new relevation in any way unless you haven't ever read anything about Jefferson.

Well maybe some people don't get out and read as much as you do...
I know that I wouldn't have known that until someone told me. It's not like you go out and look for that kind of information you know.
Besides, writting about Thomas Jefferson is a good way to refresh the young minds of today and get them interested in history again.

I first heard about it when taking a tour of Monticello 12 years ago when we moved here.

Nothing wrong with reporting it, but for the Hook to post here that its a revelation is incorrect.

This is one of the most inaccurate books that I have seen a professional scholar write. I wrote the National Awards Committee and suggested that they consider PULLING her award. This book is a brazen attempt to make the public believe that TJ fathered Hemings children. She says that TJ fathered 7 of Sally's children.........in my opinion this is an out and out LIE. I worked with Dr Foster and NOTHING proves that TJ fathered ANY Hemings child. See www.tjheritage.org and www.angelfire.com/va/TJTruth. Read the Scholars Commission report there (13 prominent full professors)including Prof. Robert Turner, UVA, as Chairman. NO PROOF of a parentage by TJ.

This author should be asked to PROVE her unfounded claims. The DNA Study found NO match between Jefferson and Tom Woodson claims and he was one of the 7 children she uses to say that TJ fathered all seven.

The secret of this study confuses the reader because Dr Foster tested a known carrier of the Jefferson DNA, John Weeks Jefferson, whose Eston Hemings family had ALWAYS orally claimed descent from "a Jefferson uncle" which translates to be a reference to Randolph Jefferson, TJ's much younger brother who came among the slaves, played the fiddle and reported to have fathered slave children by his own slaves. He was known as UNCLE RANDOLPH by Martha Jefferson Randolph's children and their slave playmates. Of course with this "set up" naturally there would be a match, and there was. I asked Dr Foster to notify Nature Journal and HE DID NOT, until the second issue on Jan 7, 1999 and by then the media and Monticello had "convinced" the citizens that TJ did father Sally's children. Many people are involved in this agenda to smear TJ.......DON'T believe it!

Only after a New York meeting between Fawn Brodie and two sisters from the Eston Hemings family did she persuade them to accept her opinion that Thomas was their ancestral father. This is GARBAGE and Monticello is to be faulted for entertaing such a biased and one sided opinion, chaired by African-American ORAL history specialist Dianne Swann-Wright. In my opinion, their study was a complete attempt to sway the public's image of a great American Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson.

The public, in my opinion, is being "CONNED" and the citizens of Charlottesville and the entire world should be DEMANDING changing attitudes at Monticello and supporting authors such as Annette Gordon-Reed and Prof. Peter Onuf at UVA, a man whose very chair is supported by Monticello, be REQUIRED to present PROOF.

Herb Barger
Jefferson Family Historian

Mr. Barger makes many excellent points here. The bottom line, there is no definite proof that Jefferson himself fathered Hemming's children. Sadly, a trend in current politics is guiding such inaccurate facts. At least we now know there is another more sensible side to the story. An educated public will never believe such tales of fiction.