Superfreaks/ACRA: Superfreaks Season 3 #1

Tom Russell milos_parker at
Thu Oct 4 21:02:46 PDT 2007

On Oct 4, 8:00 pm, Martin Phipps <martinphip... at> wrote:

> "All men are created equal (but black women are seriously hot)." --
> Thomas Jefferson
> Okay, Jefferson didn't _say_ that last part but he was _thinking_ it.


Well, the whole Sally Hemings thing is a matter of some debate.  From

"Sally Hemings (Shadwell, Albemarle County, Virginia, circa 1773 -
Charlottesville, Virginia, 1835) was a quadroon slave owned by Thomas
Jefferson. It is thought that she might have been, by blood, the half-
sister of Jefferson's deceased wife Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson.
It has been documented since 1802 that Jefferson was alleged to be the
father of several of her children.

"Descendants of Thomas Woodson long claimed that he was Sally Hemings'
son, and that he had had been fathered by Thomas Jefferson. The claim
that Woodson was descended from Jefferson was conclusively disproved
by DNA testing in 1998, but Hemings cannot be completely ruled out as
his mother. However, the same DNA testing strongly indicated that
Sally's last child, Eston Hemings, was a male line descendant of
Jefferson's paternal grandfather, which means that Eston was fathered
by one of 25 patrilineal candidates."

There were some younger members of Jefferson's household which may
have fathered the child; according to the Thomas Jefferson Heritage
Society's 2001 report, the most likely candidate is Randolphe
Jefferson, Thomas's younger brother.  The report, which, it should be
noted, was only commissioned by the TJHS and thus independent of it,
and was conducted by a number of notable scholars all unaffiliated
with the TJHS, concluded that the Thomas Jefferson paternity rumour
was "not persuasive".  As American Heritage magazine summed it up:

"The Scholars Commission agrees unanimously that the Jefferson-Hemings
allegation is by no means proven, and except for one dissenter, the
members' individual conclusions range from serious skepticism about
the charge to a conviction that it is almost certainly false."

The report is available in several PDF downloads here:

David N. Mayer, who served on the Commission, had this to say in his
piece, "The Thomas Jefferson - Sally Hemings Myth and the
Politicization of American History":

"Throughout American history, the Jefferson-Hemings paternity
allegation has been used for partisan purposes. That certainly was the
case of the allegation's early history, during Jefferson's own
lifetime. It originated in an 1802 Richmond, Virginia newspaper story
by the hatchet journalist James Thomson Callender, a disappointed job-
seeker who felt he had been betrayed by the new President and whose
bitterness toward Jefferson was quite evident throughout the piece."

As far as the claims of Madison Hemings--

"It is in the context of this 19th-century manipulation of the
"Jefferson image" that we must place the so-called "memoirs" of
Madison Hemings, published on March 13, 1873 as the first of a series
of interviews with former slaves entitled "Life Among the Lowly," in
the Pike County (Ohio) Republican, a partisan newspaper edited by
Samuel F. Wetmore, a Republican Party activist. As Professor Turner
notes in his individual views, there are many good reasons to be
highly skeptical of this 1873 newspaper article. One reason is that we
are not sure the statements attributed to Madison Hemings really were
his and not the words of the editor, Wetmore. Even if the statements
were indeed Hemings', they are clearly hearsay, for Madison Hemings
had no first-hand knowledge of a relationship between Jefferson and
his mother. Indeed, given that there is no evidence that Sally Hemings
herself claimed Jefferson as the father of any of her children as well
as the fact that Madison Hemings' statements so closely resemble the
original Callender allegations from 1802 (for example, in their
identical misspellings of John Wayles' name), it is possible that
Hemings based his story on Callender's."

He goes on to trace the history of the story, and the ways it was used
to prop up arguments both pro- and anti-slavery.  You can read the
whole article here:

Though I think the persistance of this particular unproven allegation
has less to do with politics and more to do with money-- being the
descendents of a disenfranchised heir at the very least will result in
a book deal.  And also with having a receptive audience: people still
claim that Lizzie Borden murdered her parents (she was acquitted and
had no evidence against her, other than, perhaps, being a spinster) or
that JFK was assassinated as a result of a conspiracy (which is so
asinine as to not merit serious discussion), that a woman was given
millions of dollars for spilling coffee on herself (the amount, on
appeal, was reduced to $480,000-- hardly "millions", especially for an
81-year-old woman).  The problem is that most people don't look into
the facts in any given case, and that's the same case here; they also
don't stop to think as to who benefits from a given accusation.

This does remind me of a blatantly obvious distortion that's been
gaining some ground recently-- that the Declaration of Independence
was _not_ based on the ideas of Locke, but that Jefferson actually
adapted it from the Koran.  The fact that the person presenting this
idea was Muslim has absolutely no bearing upon her argument, which was
not backed up with any facts, citations, or specific examples.  While
her aim was noble, the way in which she went about it was not.



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