01 September 2011
Thomas Jefferson's relationship with slave Sally Hemmings disputed -- new scholarship
In a book due out Thursday, eminent scholars say it’s unlikely that Thomas Jefferson fathered Sally Hemings‘ children, disputing a decade’s worth of conventional wisdom that the author of the Declaration of Independence sired offspring with one of his slaves.
The debate has ensnared historians for years, and many thought the issue was settled when DNA testing in the late 1990s confirmed that a Jefferson male fathered Hemings‘ youngest son, Eston. But, with one lone dissenter, the panel of 13 scholars doubted the claim and said the evidence points instead to Jefferson’s brother Randolph as the father.
The scholars also disputed accounts that said Hemings‘ children received special treatment from Jefferson, which some saw as evidence of a special bond between the third president and Hemings.
“It is true that Sally’s sons Madison and Eston were freed in Jefferson’s will, but so were all but two of the sons and grandsons of Sally’s mother Betty Hemings who still belonged to Thomas Jefferson at the time of his death. Sally’s sons received by far the least favorable treatment of those freed in Thomas Jefferson’s will,” said Robert F. Turner, a former professor at the University of Virginia who served as chairman of the commission.
read the rest.