Annette Gordon-Reed: Jefferson's relevance continues

Posted in: Jefferson Today

Historian and 2008 National Book Award winner Annette Gordon-Reed writes on that recent events involving race, religion, even piracy once again emphasize Thomas Jefferson's relevance in the modern world.  


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Professor Gordon-Reed's comments are notable, but flawed when she converts the conversation to Jefferson's "tangled bloodlines."
One statement should be made concerning our greatest founding father: Thomas Jefferson was either the most prolific, hypocritical liar in American history or the victim of the most profane, 200-year-old defamation of character allegation in legal annals. There is no gauzy middle ground in this historical tableau.

For the last ten years, Jefferson’s reputation has been unfairly eviscerated by a misrepresentation of the DNA study turning reputed science into political science. The exhumation of prurient embellishments has not only misled viewers but impoverished a fair debate. The “Sally” story is pure fiction, possibly revisionist politics, but certainly not historical fact or science. It reflects a recycled inaccuracy that has metastasized over two hundred years.

In contrast to the blizzard of recent agenda-driven programs and books spinning the controversy as a mini-series version of history and slavery, I found that layer upon layer of evidence points to a mosaic distinctly away from Jefferson with one inevitable conclusion: the historians have the wrong Jefferson--the DNA, as well as other historical evidence, matches perfectly to his younger brother, Randolph and his teen-age sons, as the true candidates for a sexual relationship with Sally. Quite simply, the most credible evidence exonerates Jefferson.

In fairness to the historical record, historians should present the facts and let a fair minded public decide where the truth lies, mindful of Jefferson’s own words:
"When tempted to do anything in secret, ask yourself if you would do it in public; if you would not, be sure it is wrong."


An informative article. I enjoyed reading it. For those who decry Gordon-Reed's research - certain disappointment follows when people idolise other people. Jefferson, like many others, was not above reproach. He was a complex individual who contributed to the making of a nation. He was not perfect. Why is it so shocking that his life was full of contradictions? He was typical of his time.


Annette Gordon-Reed's award-winning work is meticulously researched. She and a host of leading historians familiar with the circumstances of TJ and his children have largely come to the same conclusions. Suggesting Monticello, by embracing her work, is "PC" and "pathetic", is simply narrow-minded and suggests a real lack of knowledge or interest in the facts.


You mean the "Court Historians??" Sorry,but you are wrong; the "facts"are not"meticulously researched" and to pin blame on Jefferson for an assumption that cannot be proven is irresponsible and YOU have the "real lack of knowledge",I am afraid.Monticello's operators that have bought in to this lie are beneath the dignity of Mr.Jefferson, and are an embarrassment.End of discussion.


I wanted to point out some resources available on our website regarding research conducted by Thomas Jefferson Foundation staff members about the Jefferson-Hemings relationship as well as a page with access to several resources on the topic. I share these in case you have not seen them and might be interested in understanding more about the Foundation's research into the matter.

You can access the Foundation's Report of the Research Committee on Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings here.

And the page with a list of Jefferson-Hemings Resources is here.


There is nothing "outstanding" about swarming over this woman who irresponsibly stated that TJ fathered several children w/Hemings; no proof and it is pathetic that Monticello is in the throes of PC.


Another outstanding contribution by Professor Gordon-Reed.

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