Fellows Forum - The Robinsons: An Enslaved Family's Blood Ties to Thomas Jefferson and His Extended Family
Event At A Glance
At the turn of the 20th Washington, DC, bringing with her tales of a family connection to one of America’s most iconic figures, Thomas Jefferson. EvaRobinson Taylor, who was black and whose ancestors were slaves, claimed to be his direct descendant. When she died at 37-years old, the details of her story died with her, but her descendants maintained an oral history that became family lore. Now, almost 100 years after Eva’s death, oral history, fragmented documents, and DNA evidence support her claim, that she was in fact a direct Jefferson descendant, and not from the famous Hemings family line. Moreover, research has found Eva’s enslaved family probably had very close ties with Jefferson’s grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, and his family. Additionally, Peter Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson’s father, owned some of her ancestors. Eva Robinson Taylor was my grandmother.
White proposes to discover more about the Robinson family, which appears to have been tied for generations to the Jeffersons. By culling through historical records, official documents, and family letters, she hope to uncover more details about the extent of their relationships and just how intimate they may have been. Her grandmother was bound by blood and her ancestors by bondage to the Jeffersons, the Randophs, and to a lesser known family branch, the Taylors. She researchs in hopes to uncover more previously unknown kinships between Jefferson’s extended family and their enslaved people, her family, her people.
Gayle Jessup White is a public relations and communications consultant with a special interest in community outreach, social services, and education. She’s been a TV reporter, college professor, and media trainer. However, Gayle’s passion is American history and her family’s genealogy. She’s spent much of her life uncovering what until century, 19-year-old Eva Robinson Taylor left Charlottesville for recently had been her paternal grandmother’s mysterious origins linking her to Thomas Jefferson, a subject about which Gayle has written and occasionally lectures. Gayle is a Valentine Richmond History Center Museum teacher as well as a writer and public speaker. She serves as a board trustee with the YWCA of Richmond, the Maymont Foundation, and Elk Hill Farm, as well as serving as a member of the Science Museum of Virginia Foundation's Liaison Committee. Gayle received a Master of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism in Evanston, IL and Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Howard University School of Communications in Washington, DC. Her son, Charles Jessup Franklin, recently graduated from MIT. Gayle and her husband, writer Jack White Jr., live in Richmond, VA.