Posted: October 14th, 2008
The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family

Historians have recently uncovered the Hemings family, who had close blood ties with President Thomas Jefferson’s family. Annette Gordon-Reed, a professor at New York Law School and Rutgers University, and Brent Staples, an editorial writer for The New York Times discuss the origins of the Hemings family in Virginia in the 1700s until the death of Jefferson in 1826. The two historians will focus on the lives of Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson, as well as the entire family’s story. This event was held at the New York Historical Society.

  • Herbert Barger

    As a Jefferson Family Historian who assisted Dr. E.A. Foster I have many comments about Annette Gordon-Reed’s book, however the space is very limited so I would like to recommend that all go to: and for many more details of this FALSE and biased study. Nothing proves Thomas Jefferson guilty of fathering ANY slave child.

    Mrs. Gordon-Reed doesn’t wait long to “bad mouth” TJ and on the cover she makes a definitely inaccurate statement: “Sally, who bore seven children by Jefferson over the course of their thirty-eight year liaison.” Why would a famous historical writer and attorney and a professor at two universities, make such inaccurate and biased sounding statements? There are many other insinuations and inaccurate statements that there is kinship between Jefferson and Hemings.

    Brent Staples at NYT has always written articles that are lacking in accuracy regarding the TJ-Sally story. Too much faith is placed in the accuracy of the Monticello Study as chaired by an African-American and also too much acceptance of Madison Hemings article in the Pike Co., Ohio which contained several inaccuracies including a major one, that he was named by Dolley Madison on the occasion of his birth, Jan 19, 1805. Absolutely false, as Mrs Gordon-Reed has admitted in this book , however she TRIES to insert her own beliefs on just what Madison meant.

    And now for HOW the DNA was established, a MAJOR NO, NO! Dr Foster tested a KNOWN carrier of Jefferson DNA, John Weeks Jefferson, without telling Nature Journal that in all probability that there WOULD be a match because John’s family had ALWAYS claimed descent from “a Jefferson uncle”, meaning TJ’s much younger brother, Randolph Jefferson. If we are to believe Eston’s oral family story we can see that DNA proved them correct. But, this does not mean that they descended from THOMAS Jefferson and Eston NEVER claimed that, but his brother Madison DID, however his story has been “shot full” of holes………..they were INACCURATE.

    The above mentioned Madison article was used by the Monticello Study as a research tool, yet much of it is inaccurate. Mrs. Gordon-Reed’s eralier book was one of the other major research tools YET she “rearranged” a crucial letter from Ellen Randolph Coolidge to her husband to give a completely REVERSE meaning.

    Herbert Barger
    Jefferson Family Historian