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39 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Skillful Lawyerly Presentation of History
This is a very solid and well researched book. The author makes a very thorough and logical presentation to prove her case. Much in the manner of a courtroom argument. It is effective. I came away from reading the book convinced that Jefferson, in all reasonable liklihood, did father Sally Hemings five mixed race children.

Sally Hemings was 1/4 African in...
Published on July 6, 2007 by Jon Thomas

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Triumph of Conjecture Over Fact
If you are a fair-minded person of reasonable intelligence seeking new evidence or insights into a Jefferson-Hemings relationship, you won't find it in this book. Like Gordon-Reed's "The Hemingses of Monticello," this book has little to do with historical facts as much as it does with pushing a political/social agenda, while simultaneously vilifying Thomas Jefferson -...
Published 4 months ago by Liberty76


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39 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Skillful Lawyerly Presentation of History, July 6, 2007
This review is from: Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (Paperback)
This is a very solid and well researched book. The author makes a very thorough and logical presentation to prove her case. Much in the manner of a courtroom argument. It is effective. I came away from reading the book convinced that Jefferson, in all reasonable liklihood, did father Sally Hemings five mixed race children.

Sally Hemings was 1/4 African in descent, 3/4's European. By all accounts, she was a picture of beauty. Jefferson was, apparently, unexpectedly presented with her youthful beauty when Sally accompanied his youngest daughter from his former, deceased wife to France where Jefferson was representing US government interests.

Some reviewers have referred to Jefferson as a rapist and a child molestor. I think that's a bit much. The "past is a different place" as some thoughtful historian once described it. Teenage girls in the 18th century--and for much of the 19th century--were seen as legitimate romantic interests and potential wives for middle aged men of substance. It, apparently, was not particularly frowned upon during that period. Gordon-Reed gives an example of this with Jefferson's friend James Madison who was hopelessly in love with a teenage girl. She rejected him for someone closer to her own age. However, he eventually wound up with a much younger Dolly Madison for a wife. And apparently was not socially condemned for it. The past is a different place. Not better by any means, necessarily, but different. Something to keep in mind....

The author makes the argument that Jefferson's real sin was not in loving a "slave girl." The real sin was his enslavement of other humans for his own financial benefit. He couldn't let go of the financial benefits and the ease of living that his slaves brought him. He could never close the distance between his high sounding and beautifully eloquent rhetoric about human equality, fraternity, and liberty and his actual practices--however relatively enlightened for the times--as a slave owner at Monticello.

It's far from inconceivable that Jefferson and Hemings might have been lovers and even married in a social environment with slavery extinct. She was, after all, the 1/2 sister of his beloved deceased wife. And as stated, she was 3/4's European descent. If one--or society for that matter--wants to set up a binary system of black/white, then it sounds like Sally Hemings would logically be more closely classified as "white." However, Americans, then and even now, subscribed to the slavemaster's logic of "one drop of African blood" means that the person must be "black." An artifical social construct, but one tune many of us still dance to. I think humans are far more complicated and multi-faceted than "racial fundamentalists" would have us believe.

Jefferson is guilty of being a slaveowner and of being a hypocrite given his political and philosophical idealism. However, if he did love and have affection for Sally Hemmings in the manner that the author implies and suggests, then I am in agreement with the author that that would be no crime. However, we'll never know for sure, because the probable relationship was so evidently carefully concealed, as best as it could be, from the prying eyes of future generations.

I first heard about the Sally Hemings "scandal" from Gore Vidal. He said that the conventional historians who defend Jefferson against the "abomination" of loving a slave girl argue this way:

Thomas Jefferson was a great man.
Great men do not live with their slave girls.
Consequently, Thomas Jefferson did not live with Sally Hemings.

This is the type of conventional idiocy that sometimes passes itself off as "history."

Annette Gordon-Reed's book is well worth the effort of reading if you're interested in the subject. I thought it a very well balanced and intellectually honest effort.
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40 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gordon-Reed is Clearly a Lawyer, not an Historian, November 26, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (Paperback)
I found this book fascinating not just for its intelligent analysis of the Jefferson-Hemmings controversy, its exploration of American racism, past and present, but for the insights it offers about the meaning of history and the nature of the culture wars which are taking place currently in academia. Gordon-Reed is an attorney and this shows in her style of argument, and I don't mean that in a manner which is completely positive, she organizes evidence in the way an lawyer might, subjects what she finds to juridical standards of proof, and, I think it's clear, concludes that Jefferson and Hemmings had the liason which was alleged, hence her accusation that historians have covered this up, or paid insufficient attention to the question, for decades.
The truth, unfortunately, is more complicated, and in an odd way this book hints at why historians are forced to use different standards. There is no compromise solution to this controversy, Jefferson either fathered these children or he didn't, some part of our regard for this important figure hangs in the balance, and yet there is no evidence which settles the matter conclusively, not even a perponderance of evidence which suggests that one outcome is more likely.
What of the famous "DNA evidence"? It's a wash. Those who pay careful attention to what the article in "Nature" found will discover that this scientific evidence disproved a whole branch of oral testimony of alleged Jefferson descendants which, ironicly, had been the strongest evidence up to that point for the liason. Hemmings did not have a child by Jefferson when the two were in Paris, that has now been proven scientifically beyond all doubt, so some arguments in this book have been overtaken by events. And yet there is a genetic link between a child of Hemmings who was born years after Jefferson was president and a Jefferson. Problem, no one can prove which one it was. Oral tradition supports the argument that the father was Thomas but similar oral tradition was wrong in this other instance. Such evidence is interesting, perhaps compelling, but it's not conclusive.
That is enough to keep the controversy alive, and yet Gordon-Reed, the good advocate she is, responds to thiswith lawyerly prose, makes the best case for the argument she favors, attempts to poke holes in the rebuttals of skeptics, I don't think historians are allowed to present intuition as conclusion. If this were a legal case I think it's clear the skeptics could establish reasonable doubt about whether there ever was a Jefferson-Hemmings affair, but that begs the question, it's not.
Those who have strong passions on both sides, I'm sure, will continue to argue their beliefs while responsible historians are caught in the middle. How are historians supposed to write about an event which either happened or was a fiction concocted by political enemies? Sometimes the best conclusion is, "We don't know".
Those who have any interest in this controversy will enjoy this book. Gordon-Reed leans markedly towards one side but she does an excellent job presenting her evidence and doesn't ignore the arguments of skeptics (though the book was written before the DNA evidence was presented, and this shows).
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44 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Historical prospective, not detective work!, October 12, 2004
By 
Robin Cole-Jett (Lewisville, Texas United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (Paperback)
From the preface on, Annette Gordon Reed assures her readers that her intent is not to prove that Jefferson was the father of Sally Hemings' four children. Instead, her thesis is to expose the racism that has clouded the argument for over 200 years; at that, she succeeds.

Malone, Dumas, Wills, Adair - all have tried to paint "Dusky Sally" as a prostitute, and Jefferson as something akin to a saint. Using letters and their "intellectual imaginations" they surmise that someone as morally impeccable as Jefferson could not have been involved with a slave, although he evidently wasn't morally impeccable enough not to sell many of them on the auction block upon his death.

I've always admired Jefferson for his contributions to American governance and culture - that he might have fathered children by Sally Hemings in a 38 year long affair only enhances his distinction for me. He was a man with needs - ok, a genius, but a man all the same. He promised his wife that he wouldn't remarry. And Sally, being the half sister of his wife, Martha, could have been the kind of arms he sought refuge in.

Becoming lovers with a slave was not uncommon. Although it was rarely discussed in polite circles, "masters" often found that taking slaves as concubines limited their responsiblities, while at the same time helped fulfill their needs. One has to remember that many slaves looked very similar to their white "masters." Sally Hemings, for example, was 3/4 white, "with long, straight hair down her back." This doesn't negate her slave status, or make her more "acceptable"; rather, pointing out the "whiteness" of these slaves shows just how incredibly foreign the idea of slavery is to the natural state.

Gordon Reed makes an excellent case in her book. She criticizes conventional (white, male) historians' views in that they did not look at all the evidence - like Madison Hemings' (Sally's youngest son) oral history - or found ways to dispute claims made by first-had accounts. For example, historians claim that Madison (by then living as a free man) supposedly pretends to be Jefferson's son to increase his social standing. Pray tell, just how could that be? He was still a black man, an old man, and had already the respect of the African American freedman community. I guess gaining respect of the white community just means so much more?!

Read this book if you like a thorough discussion on historiography. Of course, bear in mind that Gordon Reed may have her own agenda (for one, she doesn't mention the Jefferson relatives living in the vicinity that might have been Hemings' lover). As usual, read evert book with a grain of salt, but read this book nonetheless - it'll open your eyes to the racism present in current historical discourse.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Evaluates the historians as much as the evidence, November 22, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (Paperback)
While the presentation may be slightly outdated in view of the current DNA discussion, the presentation of the documentary, rather than scientific, evidence is clear and even-handed with one exception. Gordon-Reed paid little attention to the sensationalism that accompanied many of the statements concerning the liaison (such as those which asserted that Jefferson had sold his children). By ignoring how overblown some of the attacks were, she makes it harder to understand why several of Jefferson's defenders, such as Dabney, rejected the entire body of allegations.
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26 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Has Jefferson relatives reeling!, June 19, 1999
By A Customer
The Jeffersons'/Randolphs'/Coolidges' response to stories about their patriarch's relationship with Miss Hemings long had been to say that the Carr brothers actually had fathered the Hemings children. Sally Hemings, the typical account said, had (to borrow an image Gordon-Reed shows a famous historian using) lied about her children's parentage in much the manner that a nag's owner might lie about its being the offspring of a famous thoroughbred. Comes now the DNA evidence to back Gordon-Reed's strong proof that the Carrs were innocent of any such adultery, and the Jefferson family seems to want to blame yet another of its male forebears, Thomas Jefferson's brother. Why do they have such an emotional investment in Thomas's not having had black children? This is one of many interesting questions Gordon-Reed's book prompts one to consider. (For the history of historians' defense of Jefferson against this charge, see the essay by Ayers and French in _Jeffersonian Legacies_, edited by Peter S. Onuf.) Virginius Dabney, who was related to Jefferson on both sides of his family, is the outstanding example of a Jefferson flack in this regard, but there have been others. Kudos to Gordon-Reed for not losing her cool in wading through the insulting, demeaning, degrading things that historians have said about Sally Hemings -- whose personality remains obscure. Even those who detest Gordon-Reed must admit that the appendices to this book, which present the main primary sources regarding this question, are worth the book's price. If you care about Jefferson, race, public "education"/propaganda, or America, buy this book.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A detailed analysis of the alleged Jefferson Hemmings affair from a different angle, November 6, 2006
This review is from: Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (Paperback)
The author has done her homework and is well-versed on this particular subject. She goes into extreme detail, analyzing multiple pieces of historical evidence, both circumstantial and documented. The latest version of her book also has an introductory chapter on the light that physical evidence, DNA, has shed on what is already known.

While careful not to draw a definitive conclusion about whether or not Jefferson fathered the children of Sally Hemmings, the author very tactfully points to certain pieces of evidence and interjects her opinions, sometimes subtly, while other times being quite obvious. While this may be considered bias by some, in essence, she appears to be responding to what she considers ongoing extreme bias and prejudice in past biographies by Jefferson historians. This is really what her book is about, more than anything, is how historians have, in her view, edified Jefferson and chosen to ignore certain pieces of important evidence, downplaying and ridiculing some, while choosing to emphasize other.

This writing is a direct attack on the way American history has been controlled and propagated by white males at the expense of slaves and their descendants. Annette Gordon-Read is a well educated, African American historian/attorney, who is taking a stand, and she presents a compelling case. She feels the voice of blacks in history has been squelched and ridiculed, and on this particular subject she points out the shortcomings of historians who have glorified Jefferson while maintaining a stereotypical view of blacks.

On the downside, I personally felt the author came across too strong in labeling Jefferson a "racist". She could have presented the facts in this area and let readers make up their own minds, rather than coming across as harsh and judgmental. She also provides a lot of speculation throughout the book. She is careful, however, to avoid statements as fact when she cannot prove them (this is what she continually accuses her predecessors as doing). Perhaps much of this conjecture is necessary to counter the multitude of speculation that has been articulated by so many historians who have downplayed or disputed the likelihood (or to them, even the possibility) of the Jefferson-Hemmings affair. The author is also very repetitive. The book could have easily been cut in half and been just as effective. However, this repetition also drives certain points home and helps the reader remember certain key elements.

Overall, this is very interesting reading, and it is also very well-written. The author communicates extremely well and her writing flows nicely and is easy to understand.

If you have any interest in the (likely) Jefferson-Hemmings affair, this book is a must read. I gave it 5 stars, despite my criticisms, as 4 stars would not have given this book the credit is deserves (perhaps a 4.5?).
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37 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Did we really need DNA evidence?, August 23, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (Paperback)
Annette Gordon-Reed's book should be required reading in graduate history programs across the country. Not because of its topic, but because it is one of the finest, most careful and critical reading of documentary evidence I've ever encountered. By providing an outstanding example of how professional historians should operate, it also exposes one of the tragic weaknesses of the discipline of History--it has for too long been among the least intellectually rigorous of all the disciplines. The recent publication by the "scholar's commission," sponsored by the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society is a classic example of the problem. In finding Jefferson "innocent" of the charges, the commission ignores the most powerful arguments put forward in Gordon-Reed's book, and builds its authority mainly on the commission member's own pedigree (mostly aging white scholars from prestigious institutions). While the commission points out the real limitations of the DNA evidence, by ignoring Gordon-Reed's work, it fails to understand what an intelligent, open-minded reader of Gordon-Reed's work will quickly grasp: credible evidence pointing to Thomas Jefferson as the likely father of Sally Heming's children has been around for more than a century, but was until recently blithely dismissed by generations of historians who were prisoners of their own racist, and guild-protecting assumptions. Gordon-Reed raises the bar for serious historical inquiry in this book, and I beleive its importance will outlast the controversy it explores.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thomas Jefferson and Salle Hemings. An American Controversy, December 15, 2012
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This review is from: Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (Paperback)
It's the first time in my life I can feel the slavery troubles. Being from another country with no African American people issue, it's not possible to have a notion of those suffering souls. They are mothers, daughters, sons become from human beings into slaves by other human beings that don't care about their feelings, love and suffering. And politics care about the matter. It was
enlighter!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A well reasoned exploration of the Jefferson-Hemings "controversy", May 29, 2013
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This review is from: Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (Paperback)
I hesitated to purchase this book, since I'd already read Gordon-Reed's "The Hemmingses of Monticello," and thought I might find it redundant. But this book is completely different: it is a lawyerly examination of the historical record and the many 19th and 20th century Jefferson biographers who have ignored or denigrated the story told here. The author rightly addresses the racism and shoddy evaluation of source materials evidenced by many Jefferson biographer/idolators. I found it both fascinating and persuasive.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Triumph of Conjecture Over Fact, August 30, 2014
If you are a fair-minded person of reasonable intelligence seeking new evidence or insights into a Jefferson-Hemings relationship, you won't find it in this book. Like Gordon-Reed's "The Hemingses of Monticello," this book has little to do with historical facts as much as it does with pushing a political/social agenda, while simultaneously vilifying Thomas Jefferson - just as James Callender, a noted political writer of Jefferson's time, attempted to do in 1802.

Gordon-Reed first attempts to convince readers that not one of Jefferson's many noted biographers have been able to accurately evaluate the preponderance of evidence of Jefferson's relationship with Sally Hemings. She believes that she alone possesses the insight and critical reasoning skills to uncover the truth of a relationship that has been there all along, just waiting for someone of her ability to expose it. Occasionally, extreme arrogance is indeed matched by remarkable talent, but not here. Far from being a scholarly work, "Thomas Jefferson & Sally Hemings" is at best a fable, and a poorly-conceived one at that. Gordon-Reed's case for a Jefferson-Hemings relationship is built on mountain of baseless speculation that can be easily taken apart (and has been in the books referenced below).

Gordon-Reed's opinionated stew consists of tedious assertions with no supporting evidence, terribly-flawed logic, Madison Hemings folklore first written nearly 50 years after Jefferson's death and which contains a variety of factual errors, deliberate alterations of Jefferson family documents (that would amount to tampering of evidence in a court of law), purposeful omission of critical facts that might cast serious doubt on the assertion of Jefferson's paternity of Hemings' children, dubious statistics, and moral judgments of Jefferson made by judging him by standards of the 21st century rather than the times in which he lived. And one has to wonder how the other 24 adult male Jefferson family members, who lived a short distance from Monticello and visited often, escaped Gordon-Reed's considerations as possible fathers for any of Sally Hemings' children.

The Scholar Commissions Report, led by Professor Robert Turner of the University of Virginia, clearly outlines (readers can "Look Inside" on pages 33-37 on Amazon) just how blatantly Gordon-Reed altered the text of Jefferson family members to support her premises. If you take the time to compare the pre/post Gordon-Reed altered text, you will quickly see that this is not simply a matter of juxtaposing a word or two, but rather a complete rewrite of a clearly written passage to portray a different meaning. This is a clear violation of ethical standards. And shame on Harvard and any other academic institutions that tolerate such intellectually and ethically dishonest practices. This should be grounds for termination, not celebration and accolades.

It frustrates Gordon-Reed to no end because she cannot find any substantive evidence of a Jefferson-Hemings relationship. Most reasonable people might entertain the notion that the complete lack of evidence points to the fact that such a relationship did not take place. But not Gordon-Reed. How does she handle this apparent inhibitor to her wild speculations? She declares that the complete lack of evidence IS "evidence" that a 38 year romantic and sexual relationship did indeed exist, and that Jefferson, friends, family, and everyone associated with Monticello destroyed or suppressed the supporting facts and evidence. This is a common theme in all of Gordon-Reed's books - she simply concocts wild theories to support her views, regardless of how outlandish they may be. And as described above, she is perfectly fine with deliberately altering historical documents to serve her purposes.

Gordon-Reed extols readers that they should take "as fact" the family folklore handed down from Madison Hemings, despite the fact that it contains a number of factual inaccuracies and amounts to hearsay, since Madison Hemings was not present for much of what he describes. And as we have seen in the case of Thomas Woodson, 200+ years of history passed down through generations of the Woodson family, claiming that Thomas Woodson was the "Yellow Tom" of Monticello and first child of Sally Hemmings as cited by James Callender, has turned out to be little more than a fanciful myth, likely propagated by those that wanted to embellish the family history. The DNA study, inaccurately described by Nature Magazine, did not confirm that Thomas Jefferson was the father of Eston Hemings. But it did confirm that Thomas Jefferson was not the father of Thomas Woodson. Throughout history, we have seen many people step forward to claim ancestry with some famous figures. In almost every case, such claims have been made erroneously by people seeking money, fame, or both. We should not be surprised that some would attempt something similar relative to one of our nation's Founding Fathers.

What is Gordon-Reed's response to those that legitimately question her many hastily-made assertions and fail to believe in her book of fables? She calls labels them as "Racists!" It can't be that people believe Gordon-Reed simply fails to offer any substantive evidence for her claims. Nor can it be others are able to point out severe problems with Gordon-Reed's troubling logic. Nor can it be that Gordon-Reed mysteriously fails to include a tremendous amount of information that might exonerate Jefferson as being the father of Hemings' children. Nope - if you do not swallow Gordon-Reed's view of a Jefferson-Hemings relationship, well... it can only be that you are a good-old fashioned racist. I find Gordon-Reed's ad hominem attacks on her critics terribly sad and pathetic.

To understand Gordon-Reed's perspective, you don't need to travel back to the late 1700s or early 1800s, but to 1984. Not the calendar year, but rather the time depicted in George Orwell's "1984." In Orwell's dystopian classic, the government officials of Oceania simply decide to change history to suit their purposes and everyone must accept it as fact. The government actions receive little scrutiny and even less criticism, since it has the power make people conform. This is the type of academic reality Gordon-Reed seeks. Her use of the "Racist" label is little more than a bludgeon to beat those who disagree with her into submission to squelch debate. Why? Because she can't defend her terribly-flawed works. Call it "Orwellian" or perhaps "Machiavellian," but Gordon-Reed's intent is clear: she means to rewrite the history regarding Thomas Jefferson and no one is to question it. Welcome to Gordon-Reed's 21st century version of Orwell's "Group Think," where academic freedom means being harassed for having dissenting opinions, the ability to question is repressed, speculation trump facts and evidence, and politicians and their cronies use their influence to set the tone on university campuses regarding what is and what is not "acceptable." This is the very antithesis of education as well as everything that Thomas Jefferson stood for.

Not surprisingly, Gordon-Reed (and other pro-Jefferson paternity purveyors) has repeatedly turned down every offer to debate other scholars (such as Professor Robert Turner) that have disputed her assertions regarding Jefferson and Hemings. One would think that an acclaimed Nobel Prize winner might be able to take the stage with other notable scholars who have reached very different conclusions regarding the Jefferson-Hemings relationship (or lack thereof). Why hasn't this happened? Gordon-Reed knows that her claims would be easily and summarily dismantled by an objective and rigorous scholarly analysis. Instead of engaging in an honest debate of her work, she basks in the glow of admiration from those who have no courage to challenge her works and are all too eager to agree with her view of history, regardless of the dearth of facts to support it. Sadly, even the Thomas Jefferson Foundation (TJF), which operates Monticello and is supposed to promote and safeguard his legacy, has caved in to political pressure. The TJF actively supports the Jefferson/Hemings paternity myth. TJF has apparently become more concerned with being viewed as being politically correct and expanding their fund raising efforts, even if Jefferson's reputation and truth have to be sacrificed in the process. This is a travesty and a terrible disservice to a great man who deserves a bit more consideration than Gordon-Reed and the TJF provide. If Gordon-Reed and TJF are sincerely interested in an objective review of the evidence for/against a Jefferson-Hemings relationship, why not participate in a debate at Monticello or the University of Virginia. Professor Gordon-Reed?

The Scholars Commission Report The Jefferson-Hemings Controversy: Report of the Scholars Commission skillfully and completely annihilates Gordon-Reed's core assertions. "Jefferson Vindicated," by Cynthia H. Burton Jefferson Vindicated - Fallacies, Omissions, and Contradictions in the Hemings Genealogical Search, and "Framing of a Legend," by Andrew M. Holowchack Framing a Legend: Exposing the Distorted History of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, also do an excellent job of exposing Gordon-Reed's many ill-conceived and poorly reasoned arguments. Sadly however, as pointed out by Professors Turner and Holowchack, many professors in academia have indeed been intimidated, if not completely silenced, by the fear of being slandered with the "Racist" label should they disagree with Gordon-Reed's theories regarding Jefferson and Hemings. How terribly sad...

You might be asking, "Why would Gordon-Reed's books receive so many coveted awards and generate a wealth of accolades for its author?" I have a suspicion: Gordon-Reed has received lavish praise, not because she has developed scholarly fact-based works that shed new insight into the past, but rather because she advances the political/social narrative that derides our nation's Founding Fathers as well as their beliefs, a goal that is prized by leftist progressives, who seek a much more authoritarian society, one in which politicians and academics rule just about every aspect of our lives. Jefferson was attacked in his days by those that wanted to expand the power, scope, size, and control of the Federal government. Today, Jefferson is attacked for the very same reasons. The names and faces have changed, but the smear tactics remain the same. Gordon-Reed has led the charge over the last 16 years or so, even harnessing the power of Hollywood to perpetuate her fact-challenged view of history. I believe that the passage of time and the efforts of objective scholars and everyday people will yet expose Gordon-Reed's work for what it is - an agenda-driven work of fiction that has little to do with historical facts and evidence.

I recommend that everyone purchase a used copy of "Thomas Jefferson & Sally Hemings" for $4 (one penny and $3.99 shipping) - not because it represents a scholarly work, but because it epitomizes the sad state of academia and how titles, position, and power can be abused to advocate a version of history that is not supported by facts and evidence. If you care about truth and believe that Thomas Jefferson warrants the presumption of innocence for claims against his character, I would urge you to read the other books I referenced above which clearly articulate the many flaws in Gordon-Reed's book, and come to your own conclusion.
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Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy
Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy by Annette Gordon-Reed (Paperback - March 29, 1998)
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