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Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson: History, Memory, and Civic Culture (Jeffersonian America) Paperback – October 29, 1999


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Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson: History, Memory, and Civic Culture (Jeffersonian America) + Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy
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Product Details

  • Series: Jeffersonian America
  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: University of Virginia Press; First edition (October 29, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813919193
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813919195
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,586,905 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jan Ellen Lewis is Professor of History at Rutgers University, Newark, and author of of The Pursuit of Happiness: Family and Values in Jefferson's Virginia.

Peter S. Onuf is Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor of History at the University of Virginia and editor of Jeffersonian Legacies (Virginia). His new book, Jefferson's Empire will be published in April 2000.

Customer Reviews

2.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 16 people found the following review helpful By W. Drake on July 9, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Black oral family histories were painstakingly recollected and passed down from generation to generation.The only possessions black families were allowed to possess were their memories- powerful and precious they were,and accurate as well.It is a tragedy that the descendants of Sally Hemmings are criticized for bringing forth what they already knew to be truth.To quibble over the fact that Jefferson's brother carried similar DNA misses this book's point entirely-Hemming's children had been told who their father was.Her descendants knew!The DNA evidence confirmed it.The central message of this book is not about the biological evidence,however.It is about the psychological and cultural issues that cause us to react in extreme ways(anger, fear, disbelief)to complex racial issues, particulary those regarding sexuality.In this respect the book is outstanding.It causes each of us to examine our personal and cultural viewpoints from both black and white perspectives. Americans of all races will benefit from reading this book.
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27 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Inga on June 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
The problem with books about history is that they are almost always an interpretation: the author's. At best the author is willing to share the conflicting evidence with his reader, at worst the author omits it and pretends it doesn't even exist. But even the most faithful author can't put everything in a book so a selection has to be made. That's why the critical reader ends up reading a lot of books about the same subject. To be able to grasp most of the material, evidence and theories that are circulating. That way he/she is able to form his/her own opinion about an issue. But if the issue is Thomas Jefferson & Sally Hemings the reader will likely end up digging through tons of material and will still be very confused and very indecisive. Until recently one of the only books on the topic worth reading was Anette Gordon-Reed's "Thomas Jefferson and Sally Heming: An American Controversy". Because of it's painstakingly revealing of the mistakes, omissions and lies that previous writers had committed and for it's refusal to take a final stand.
This book however was written after the 1999 DNA tests that revealed that Thomas Jefferson very likely fathered Sally's last child Eston. And that he didn't father Thomas C. Woodson. But one has to keep in mind that the recent testing still don't prove Jefferson's paternity exclusively. Another male relative from the Jefferson line could have fathered Sally's last child, since they share the same Y chromosome. The book offers a number of refreshing essays written by scholars. Each one of them looks at the relationship from his/her own field. Trying to describe and explain what this new evidence means to themselves and their previous writings and views on TJ.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Marvelous Mal on February 17, 2014
Format: Paperback
After all the evidence is in, it appears that some Hemings' descendants are related to some descendants of the Jefferson family, possibly Thomas Jefferson, or some other Jefferson. That's as far as science can take us. We should not create a glorified and highly exaggerated image of Sally Hemings. Even if Jefferson fathered Hemings' children, one should not make to much of it. When his wife died, Jefferson was still a relatively young man, with powerful needs. It would not be unreasonable for a man to use one of his slaves to relieve himself, any more than it would be unreasonable for him to use a prostitute. And even prostitutes get pregnant. By many contemporaneous accounts, Hemings had sexual intercourse with many men on the bustling Monticello estate. Powerful men have powerful needs and weaknesses. Even so, this does not elevate Hemings to the level of having a serious, significant relationship with Jefferson, any more than Bill Clinton's dalliances are serious relationships. The Thomas Jefferson-Sally Hemings' bastards, if they exist, were nothing more than the product of a sexual relationship of convenience.
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14 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Herbert Barger on October 21, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was present at this open house discussion that this book is based upon because as Assistant to Dr. E. A. Foster, I had requested to be present and was invited by Professor Peter Onuf, one of the authors of this book. Upon arrival I was denied a seat on the panel and told to seat myself in the audience and if I wished to say anything that the "open mike" at the end of the discussion was my conduit. I was immediately opposing this august panel's findings as it applied to the actual DNA findings. In my opinion it was a seemingly overwhelming desire to have the prevailing combined force that DNA had proven Thomas Jefferson guilty of fathering slave children. This book conveys this image for the reader. Many, many statements in this book are absolutely inaccurate and have not been proven by DNA.

The very first page has a Jefferson-Hemings Family Tree that is outrageous in that it portrays Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings as being the parents of Madison and Eston Hemings (absolutely unproven). A note states that Eston Hemings is "almost" certain the son of Thomas Jefferson. Are these "authorities" educators or soothsayers?) The notes further state that descendants of Madison Hemings were not tested. This is true, HOWEVER, after deep research I found a deceased son of Madison and suggested to Dr. Foster, the Hemings, Dr. Daniel Jordan, Monticello President, and others that the DNA of William Hemings be tested adainst the Jefferson DNA and also against Eston Hemings DNA. ALL have refused to move forward to test this valuable science......WHY?

Later they suggest that some sort of long term relationship existed between Jefferson and Hemings. How can this otherwise learned group make such an obvious incorrect assertation?
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