Book Doubts Thomas Jefferson Fathered Children of Slave Sally Hemings
In a book released this week, a group of eminent scholars says it’s highly unlikely that the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence and later became the third President fathered children with one of his slaves.
These claims about Thomas Jefferson date back to 1802, in Jefferson's first term as president. One of Jefferson’s former supporters wrote in a Richmond newspaper that Jefferson kept a slave named Sally Hemings as a concubine, and had fathered “several children” with her.
Hemings‘ children and descendants kept the story alive into modern times. In November of 1998, results of DNA testing showed a genetic link between descendants of the Jefferson family and descendants of one of Hemings' sons. Many people on both sides thought the issue was settled, but it wasn't.
The newest book says the DNA testing doesn't prove Thomas Jefferson was the father of Hemings' children. It only proves it was a member of Jefferson's family, and Jefferson’s brother Randolph was the most likely suspect.
Richard Dixon, with the Jefferson Heritage Society, which sponsored the Scholars Commission study, says while the book addresses both sides of the argument, it doesn't settle it one way or the other.
He says there's just no way of proving conclusively that Thomas Jefferson was -- or was not -- the father of Hemings' children.
The photo attached to this story shows the stone on the grave of Eston Hemings Jefferson, who always believed he was the son of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings.
Whether he was or not, when Jefferson died in 1826, his Last Will and Testament set Eston and all of Hemings' children free.
Eston moved north to Madison, Wisconsin, changed his last name to "Jefferson", and passed as white until his death in Madison in 1856. He was able to do that because he had a very fair complexion, like his mother Sally who was also a child of mixed parentage.
And debate goes on.