The Jefferson–Hemings controversy concerns the question of whether there was a sexual relationship between U.S. President Thomas Jefferson and his multiracial slave, Sally Hemings, that resulted in his fathering some or all of her six recorded children. For more than 150 years, most historians denied rumors from Jefferson's presidency that he had a slave concubine, and said that one of his nephews had been the father of Hemings' children. Jefferson biographer Joseph J. Ellis said, "The alleged liaison between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings may be described as the longest-running miniseries in American history."

Property Value
dbo:abstract
  • The Jefferson–Hemings controversy concerns the question of whether there was a sexual relationship between U.S. President Thomas Jefferson and his multiracial slave, Sally Hemings, that resulted in his fathering some or all of her six recorded children. For more than 150 years, most historians denied rumors from Jefferson's presidency that he had a slave concubine, and said that one of his nephews had been the father of Hemings' children. Jefferson biographer Joseph J. Ellis said, "The alleged liaison between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings may be described as the longest-running miniseries in American history." Beginning in 1953, new documentation was published related to this issue, and some historians studied it seriously. In her bestselling 1974 biography of Jefferson, Fawn M. Brodie suggested he had been the father of Hemings' children. The book was widely discussed and Jefferson historians began to lose control of the narrative. While mainstream historians criticized the biography for its psychological analysis, Brodie also published her conclusions about the liaison, as well as interviews with descendants of Jefferson's mixed-race children, in American Heritage magazine, reaching a wider audience. In 1979 Barbara Chase-Riboud published a well-received and bestselling novel of Hemings that gave her a "compelling" voice, portraying her as both an independent woman and Jefferson's concubine. Historians succeeded in suppressing a planned CBS TV movie based on this novel. In 1995 the film Jefferson in Paris was released, which portrayed a Jefferson-Hemings liaison. In 1997 the issue was rejoined when Annette Gordon-Reed published a challenging analysis of the historiography on this issue, deconstructing previous versions and detailing oversights and bias. That year Ken Burns released his documentary on Jefferson as a PBS series. In discussions of the potential liaison, white historians gave all the reasons why it was unlikely Jefferson had one. African-American historian John Hope Franklin (and others) noted all the mulattos of the period and said, "These things [interracial liaisons] were part of the natural landscape in Virginia, and Mr. Jefferson was as likely as any others to have done this because it's in character with the times—and indeed, with him, who believed in exploiting these people that he controlled completely." Historically, in the 1850s Jefferson's eldest grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, told historian Henry Randall that the late Peter Carr, a married nephew of Jefferson's (the son of his sister), had fathered Hemings' children, and asked Randall not to address the issue in his biography. Randall did pass this information to James Parton, another historian. Parton published the Carr story and major historians of Jefferson generally asserted the denial of Jefferson's paternity for nearly 150 years. While some historians and others challenged the denial, for many a changed consensus did not emerge until after a Y chromosome DNA analysis done in 1998. The DNA study showed a match between a descendant of the Jefferson male line and a descendant of Eston Hemings, Sally's youngest son. It showed no match between the Carr line and the Hemings descendant, nor between the Jefferson line and Thomas Woodson descendants, who had an oral history of descent. In 2000, a consensus emerged among historians that the entirety of the evidence suggests Jefferson's paternity for all of Hemings' children. The Monticello foundation commissioned its own study, which in 2001 concluded Jefferson was likely the father of Eston Hemings and the other children. Since then the organization has reflected this change in its exhibits, as well as publications about Jefferson and his times. The revelations have stimulated works by a variety of scholars who use the new consensus as a basis for studies into Jefferson, the Hemings family, and interracial American society. The Smithsonian Institution and Monticello collaborated in a "groundbreaking" 2012 exhibit held in Washington, DC: Slavery at Jefferson's Monticello: The Paradox of Liberty. It was the first to treat Jefferson or any American president in the role of slaveholder, as well as the first to present the lives of enslaved families. The exhibit traced the lives of six major enslaved families at Monticello and noted the consensus on Jefferson's paternity of Hemings' children. Some historians continue to suggest another Jefferson male as a more likely paternal candidate. In 2008 Gordon-Reed published The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, fully exploring the complicated Jefferson-Hemings family and relationships with his first family. In popular culture, filmmakers, artists, writers and poets have ignored the continuing historical debate and presumed the veracity of the consensus view, that Jefferson was indeed the father of Hemings' children. They freely interpret the meaning of this relationship in terms of American history and culture in much new work. (en)
dbo:birthDate
  • 1743-04-13 (xsd:date)
dbo:birthPlace
dbo:deathDate
  • 1826-07-04 (xsd:date)
dbo:deathPlace
dbo:office
  • 3rdPresident of the United States
dbo:party
dbo:predecessor
dbo:successor
dbo:termPeriod
dbo:thumbnail
dbo:vicePresident
dbo:wikiPageExternalLink
dbo:wikiPageID
  • 4190992 (xsd:integer)
dbo:wikiPageRevisionID
  • 742461013 (xsd:integer)
dbp:alt
  • Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale.
dct:subject
http://purl.org/linguistics/gold/hypernym
rdf:type
rdfs:comment
  • The Jefferson–Hemings controversy concerns the question of whether there was a sexual relationship between U.S. President Thomas Jefferson and his multiracial slave, Sally Hemings, that resulted in his fathering some or all of her six recorded children. For more than 150 years, most historians denied rumors from Jefferson's presidency that he had a slave concubine, and said that one of his nephews had been the father of Hemings' children. Jefferson biographer Joseph J. Ellis said, "The alleged liaison between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings may be described as the longest-running miniseries in American history." (en)
rdfs:label
  • Jefferson–Hemings controversy (en)
owl:sameAs
prov:wasDerivedFrom
foaf:depiction
foaf:isPrimaryTopicOf
foaf:name
  • Thomas Jefferson (en)
is dbo:wikiPageRedirects of
is rdfs:seeAlso of
is owl:sameAs of
is foaf:primaryTopic of