From Publishers Weekly
Squabbles about Southern genealogies are usually confined to blue-haired ladies in local history societies but not when the family in question is Thomas Jefferson's. The possibility of a sexual liaison between the third president and his slave Sally Hemings has occupied scholars and gossipmongers since Jefferson's lifetime. Most of the recent debate has focused on the four children with the surname Hemings (Madison, Beverly, Harriet and Eston). But there may have been another child, Thomas Woodson (so named because, the story goes, he was sent from Monticello to the nearby Woodson plantation as a lad). Though the existence of young Tom is up for debate, one of those claiming to be his descendants tells his side of the story here. Woodson presents new evidence, the most persuasive piece of which is Jefferson's Farm Book, in which he recorded all the names of his slaves. Scholars have noted that no young Tom was recorded in 1790 (his putative year of birth). Woodson was stunned, then, to see that in 1790, four slaves' names had been recorded, and one of them was erased, a fact never reported by Jefferson scholars. Woodson's book is a tad histrionic, filled with words like "astounding," "preposterous," "repulsed" and lots of exclamation marks. There is also a bit too much extraneous material about the author's family details about his adoptive daughter's penchant for running away, for example. Still, Woodson makes his case effectively, and Jefferson buffs will relish this latest installment in the Jefferson-Hemings saga.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Woodson is a sixth-generation descendant of Thomas Woodson, who was the eldest of five children born to Sally Hemings, a slave in the household of Thomas Jefferson. This book is the latest installment in a bitter debate concerning whether the father of those five children was Thomas Jefferson himself. In this heartfelt book, the author clearly delineates those he sees as the heroes and the villains. The chief villains are the "establishment" Jefferson historians, such as Dumas Malone, who for many years declared that Jefferson could never have had an affair with one of his slaves. One of Woodson's "heroes" is Fawn Brodie, whose 1974 book Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History argued that such a liaison had indeed existed. This book gives not only another exhaustive account of our third President's private life but the subsequent history of the Hemings progeny. Woodson bitterly criticizes the procedures followed in the DNA testing of 1997, which failed to establish conclusively that the Woodsons are descended from Jefferson. (Woodson himself contributed a blood sample to that test.) This book will not end the debates about the Jefferson-Hemings relationship, but it will be an important document in future discussions. Recommended for all academic and large public libraries. T.J. Schaeper, St. Bonaventure Univ., NY
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.