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Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings

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Sophia Shubert

on 9 December 2013

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Transcript of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings

Thomas Jefferson
Sally Hemings

by Sophia Shubert
Who was Sally Hemings?
The Accusation
Jefferson's Perspective
DNA Testing
Who was Sally Hemings?
Martha Jefferson, Thomas's wife and Sally's half-sister
Half-sister of Martha Jefferson, inherited to Jefferson through his father-in-law
3/4 white, beautiful
Renounced freedom
Probably illiterate, but cultured
Mother of Harriet, Beverly, an unnamed daughter, Harriet II, Madison, Eston, and possibly Thomas Woodson
Would have returned from France pregnant with Thomas
16 at first pregnancy; Jefferson would have been 65 at last
Was not freed by Jefferson or buried with him
Sometimes paid a small wage
The Accusation
Circa 1800, by an anonymous artist
Original accusation printed
by James Callender
First accusation by James Thomson Callender in 1802
Well-known for being a racist "scandalmonger"
Angry that Jefferson refused him a job
Claimed Jefferson impregnated Sally in France
Exaggerated, but was usually right
Jefferson probably denied the claim
Family denied the relationship
Claimed Carrs were responsible
Said relationship was impossible
Overseer named the culprit
Jefferson's Perspective
Anti-black propaganda
from 1900
Portrait d'une negresse by Marie-Guillemine Benoist, 1800
Thomas Woodson and Madison and Eston Hemings families believe they are related to Jefferson
Slave mothers often told their children their master was their father
Advocated freedom of slaves
Believed blacks were inferior in body and mind
Scorned black sexuality as animalistic
Opposed racial mixing
Sexual mythology, common belief that blacks bred with animals
Only mentioned Sally in letters infrequently and casually
Attraction to forbidden women
Avid letter-writer and lover of literature
Sally was likely illiterate
Did not try to be alone with Sally or consider her to be a comfort
Was widowed several years prior to beginning of alleged scandal
Showed no interest in Hemings children
DNA Testing
Dr. Eugene Foster, conductor of the DNA study
Jefferson-Hemings descendants
DNA test conducted in 1998 by Dr. Eugene Foster
Thomas Jefferson did not father a male line
Blood of descendants of Field Jefferson, Thomas' uncle, was compared with descendants of the Carrs, Thomas Woodson, and Eston Hemings
No connection between Jeffersons and Woodsons or Carrs
Descendants of Eston Hemings carried the Jefferson Y chromosome
Frequency of haplotype is 1.5%, never observed outside Jefferson family
Could have been Thomas, his brother Randolph, any of his five sons, a cousin George, or any of the 25 male Jeffersons living in Virginia
Randolph socialized with slaves unlike his brother, and was at Monticello around Eston's conception
"honesty is the first chapter of the book, wisdom"
Full transcript