"It was the family legend"
Julia Westerinen recalls how she learned about her descent from Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson.
Family: Hemings Jefferson, Eston
Residence (at time of interview): Staten Island, NY
Artist, businesswoman, and mother of four, Julia Westerinen did not learn of her connection to Monticello and her African American ancestry until the 1970s. After genetic testing in 1998 established a link between her family line and Jefferson's, she went on the Oprah Winfrey show and met Shay Banks-Young, a descendant of Madison Hemings, brother of her ancestor Eston Hemings Jefferson.
Since then, they have been speaking to audiences around the country about their family history and issues of race in America. In her joint interview with Banks-Young, Westerinen notes that since learning of her African American heritage, "I don't see color anymore like I used to."
6 Dec. 1997, Staten Island, NY
Interviewees: Julia Jefferson Westerinen, Emil Westerinen, Arthur Westerinen, Susan Smart, Eleanor Magid
Also present: Emily Westerinen
19 July 2000, Charlottesville, VA
Interviewees: Shay Banks-Young, Julia Jefferson Westerinen
Julia Westerinen considers Thomas Jefferson in relation to her own family.
Julia Westerinen explains her changing impressions of how Jefferson treated his slaves.