The Jefferson-Hemings Controversy: Report of the Scholars Commission, is a new look at a very old dispute, except this time the dozen scholars behind the book are disrupting years’ worth of research that suggests that Thomas Jefferson fathered children with his slave Sally Hemings.
The Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society, a group that seeks to defend Jefferson’s image, is behind the book, which documents the results of a yearlong research
inquiry by a dozen scholars across the nation working without compensation for the Heritage Society. Carolina Academic Press will release the 400-page book Thursday.
Ever since a 1998 DNA test was performed on Sally’s youngest child, Eston, scholars have thought for years that a Jefferson male, assumed to be Thomas
Jefferson, fathered the boy. But those tests didn’t even involve DNA from Thomas Jefferson and only established that Eston was probably fathered by any one of more than two dozen Jefferson men living in Virginia at the time, “The Jefferson-Hemings Controversy” asserts. In fact, the scholars point to Jefferson’s brother, Randolph, as the likely father of Hemings’ son.
The book also disputes accounts that Hemings’ children received special treatment from Jefferson, evidence some have used to suggest that the third president had a special relationship with Hemings. Neither Hemings nor her children received unusual privileges at Monticello, the scholars argue in the book. In fact, all of Hemings’ relations were not, in fact, given freedom at age 21, as is commonly believed.