Antebellum Sexual Relations: Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings



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Dannet Perez

Did the third president of the United States take a slave for his mistress? The DNA test being taken today says yes.

It all began 1802, when James Callendar, a drunk accused Thomas Jefferson of fathering children out of wedlock with his mistress, Sally Hemings. Sally Hemings was Jefferson's late wife's half sister. Jefferson never responded to those accusations, and the affair became an unblottable scandal.

Seventy-one years later, a young man descended from Sally Hemings told a newspaper that Jefferson was his father. The British journal Nature presented the results of scientific tests that show a DNA match between a male descendant of Sally Hemings and a man who can trace his lineage to Jefferson's paternal uncle. Advances in the mapping of the Y chromosome, allowed scientists to consider DNA matches reported by Nature as proof of genetic linkage. This removes any doubt that Thomas Jefferson sired at least one son by Sally Hemings.

About 50 years after Jefferson’s death, Madison Hemings tolds an Ohio newspaper that Thomas Jefferson was his father and sired all of Sally Hemings children. Another ex-slave from Monticello recounted the same story to the newspaper.

Dr. Eugene A. Foster, a pathology professor, became interested in the Jefferson-Hemings affair, and begun to do research on it. He discovered the advances in mapping techniques for the Y chromosome. He needed to draw blood samples from Jefferson descendants and looked to the Field Jefferson line. Field Jefferson was Thomas Jefferson's paternal uncle. He drew blood samples from five living Field descendants. Then he began to look for a descendant of Jefferson and Hemings. He looked toward the Woodson family line who had claimed for centuries that they were direct descendants of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. At first they did not cooperate then at last they relented with Foster's study and five Woodson's gave blood samples. Then he tracked down three male descendants of the Carr's, they also gave blood. Foster finally received nineteen blood samples. The DNA was then extracted from the blood samples by a pathologist from the University of Virginia. Foster's samples were tested by three Oxford labs using different procedures. The results only established a definite Y chromosome match on Eston Hemings, who was born in the second term of Jefferson's presidency. This means that Jefferson at least fathered one of Sally Heming's sons.

The fact that there is not a match in DNA tests with Hemings first kids and only with her last does not mean that Jefferson did not sire them. The direct descendant could have been lost through the centuries.

Sally Hemings

Sally Hemings has become an enigma, because she has been linked to one of the most famous men in history, and very little is known about her. Sally Hemings was the daughter of a woman who was half white and a white man. She was a quadroon. She was described as being nearly white in appearance with straight hair. She was a very beautiful slave, according to all the accounts of slaves who lived in Monticello. She was at the top of the slave hierarchy of Monticell, separate to some degree. Today, the American vision is that blacks and whites should live together in long as it is not too much harmony.

Jefferson-Hemming DNA Testing Online Resource.

Jefferson/Hemings DNA Matches

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