jefferson's blood
homevideo reportsis it true?jefferson enigmaslaves' storychronologyview the story

What are your views on the Jefferson-Hemings relationship, and the racial boundary which divides their descendants?

Dear FRONTLINE

It seems so amazing to me that the story has become fact, when the documentation and DNA data do not completely fit.

The Woodson family through oral history have always concluded that Thomas Jefferson was the father of Tom. DNA has proved otherwise. So we do know for sure that Jefferson was not the father of this Hemmings child. So many of the Woodson descendants still claim a heritage link with Jefferson.

I do not in anyway conclude that Jefferson did not have a relationship with Sally, but I do suggest that we wait for more information to come in before we consider this a fact.

This story has become fact with the media and many educators before all the facts are in. This is a perfect example of people today quickly jumping to conclusions about a piece of history.

If he did have a relationship with Sally it happened years after his wife passed away. Jefferson dearly loved his wife. I think we need to evaluate all the evidence with an unbiased reaction for a change and not bring politics involved in the conclusion.



Christopher Cline
Lancaster, Ohio

Dear FRONTLINE

You asked the wrong question. The question should be, "Should the Hemmings accept the slave owner Jefferson as a relative?"

Paul Hogan
Phoenixville, PA

Dear FRONTLINE

You did an excellent job on the Jefferson/Hemmings story. Thomas Jefferson was a giant in U.S and world history. The fact that he had a relationship and fathered children with Sally Hemmings does not change that one iota.

It's rather amusing to watch the white Jefferson's and their faction try and tap dance their way around the Hemmings side of the family. But what I don't find amusing and what really disturbs me the most about their attitude is, that they are so incredibly offended with those who dare suggest that their pure, god-like Jefferson could ever...sleep with a black woman but they have absolutely no problem whatsoever with the fact that he was a SLAVEOWNER! What is wrong with this picture?


J. Tafoya
San Francisco, CA

Dear FRONTLINE

Why wouldn't Jefferson be like any other man? If he loved her, if he found solace in her, why wouldn't he be sexually attracted to her in spite of the color difference? After all, she was more white than black. His wife didn't want him to remarry.

This was the quiet way to sustain his manhood, noted statesman or not? Why do we find this so hard to believe?

Bernice Watson

Dear FRONTLINE

It bothers me that the sexual rape of a black woman deemed a female slave is now spoken of and treated as a sexy part of history in which black women benefitted from...

A black woman who was a slave in those times was property and was flogged with a whip like a cow or a horse, if they refused to have sex with a white man. And after being flogged the white man raped her. That is NOT sexy.

What black women want to have white babies by white men that raped them, whose children are sold as slaves in the end anyway? This is the exact reason that white and black America has the race problems that exist today...

It was a period wherein women in general were treated with great disrespect - black and white. And why would a black woman think it beneficial to be raped by a white man in order to have light-skinned children who would be sold as slaves on the auction block in the end anyway? There were absolutely no benefits for black women to have children by white men. The women stayed slaves and the children stayed black. The trauma of those actions has caused many a rift in the black and white nation. This is a house slave game that black women still play to this day. And it doesn't get us anywhere. It just doesn't work.

Mary Thiam

Dear FRONTLINE

Why is it the descendents of Sally Heming want the recognition? Will that help their "ego?" If the black community didn't believe the DNA evidence that showed O.J. Simpson killed Nichole then why would people believe DNA evidence that Sally past on the genes of Jefferson to her offspring?

I am trying to figure out the angle these people are going after with trying to force their way into the history books. Has to be money involved some how.

Adolph Jones

Dear FRONTLINE

I am a direct descendant of Peter Jefferson and I have no problem recognizing my cousins who are descendant's of Sally and Thomas like they need my validation.

Gray Newman
Charlotte, NC

Dear FRONTLINE

I really can't see why there is all the todo about something that happened so long ago. The ligitmate heirs of Jefferson would do well to read the history of the nation, get over it and get on with their lives. It is not as if the Hemmings are going to get anything other than their rightful place in history.

I am certain that there are few in the USA that can actually claim pure white blood, whatever that is.

Tracy Antonio

Dear FRONTLINE

The children of Miss Hemmings are bastards. As such they are not recognized as part of the legitament blood line. No more then illegitment children of royalty were considered part of the family.

So what's the big deal!

Roger Davis

Dear FRONTLINE

Those who refuse to believe that Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers of our country, could have been involved with a slave girl, have the same mentality as those who are adament in their belief that the holocaust did not occur.

As a result of slavery, less than 10% of black Americans and those from the Carribean Islands etc. have a pure African strain in their blood. Many of the white culture would be surprised at what ethnic mixtures of color flow through their veins. Who gives a darn; if so, how are we going to change it. It's a moot point. Why grow old worrying about cultural makeups we had no control over.

The pleasing thing is that we are alive, we are all Americans; and we have to survive together...

Frank Myers
Puyallup, Wash.

Dear FRONTLINE

I think it is unfortunate that the black claimants to Jefferson's kinship are so demanding of his known white descendants. One can see how difficult it would be for the descendants of Mr. Jefferson's daughters to immediately embrace these individuals without proper documentation.

One hopes that the descendants of Sally Hemings will endeavor to show a degree of patience and understanding of the dilemma they face.

There is no need for the Foundation or its individual members to accept out of hand these allegations - though perhaps faithfully made - of kinship without exhaustive tests and extensive input from a wide variety of scientific authorities.

Also, the transcript of Jefferson's Blood reports that Martha Jefferson travelled to Paris to meet her father accompanied by her slave, Sally Hemings. It was, in fact, Maria/Mary Polly Jefferson who traveled to Paris with Sally Hemings.


minor meriwether

Dear FRONTLINE

During portions of the program on Jeffersonís Blood you discussed Jeffersonís struggle with slavery and his search later in life for possible solutions to the dilemma. After listening to the comments of his descendents, both white and mixed race, it occurred to me that perhaps, in the end, Jefferson did find a solution.

His solution did not only apply to the problem of slavery, but to the problem of race relations that we face today in this country. Jefferson gave us the same solution that other immigrants found in the early part of this century. What started out as a fear of people that were different faded as people intermarried and the differences blurred.

After a few generations the differences nearly vanished. The same may be true in the future for blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, etc. As the population intermarries the racial problems will dwindle.

Joseph Mazzochette
Cherry Hill, NJ

Dear FRONTLINE

After watching the documentary, I couldn't help wondering if the affair with Sally were not some great experiment of Jeffersons. I know this isn't supported by evidence, yet when I saw the pictures of the modern Hemmings, I couldn't help wondering if Jefferson had planned it so.

I saw what appeared to be white people being family with what seemed to be black people. Maybe Jefferson really meant it when he wrote that all men are created equal.

Samuel Fugarino

Dear FRONTLINE

There are many families who, like the descendants of the Hemmings/Jefferson union, prove the veracity of their oral histories passed from parent to child. Their faces and now their blood testify to the truth.

We have been found out. Our nation, the self-proclaimed embodiment of purity, justice, equality for all, would rather lie about and deny its fatal flaw -- our hatred toward those we brought here to be our property and our shame for taking them to our beds.

We as a nation must atone for our acts now and reconcile, black and white. Forgiveness must be sincerely offered and sincerely accepted. We do have the opportunity to become an even greater nation than our "Founding Fathers" imagined, for their racism blinded them. We can show the world that our differences make us strong...

P Miller

Dear FRONTLINE

Though I share DA Hirsch's concerns that the "Jefferson's Blood" episode treated the Thomas Jefferson-Sally Hemings "relationship" as uncontested fact rather than historical possibility, I was nonetheless fascinated and indeed inspired by the tribulations of the "white" and "black" branches of the Hemings family.

As a Jew, I have had the option of simply assimilating into secular white society, but have opted to keep my Jewish identity. Thus, I well understood the determination of the black Hemings' to "stay black". But to "choose" a race? I found that amazing.

The black Hemings' family identity seems to be simultaneously a great gift and a terrible burden--and Frontline showed both sides, in the pride of those who have chosen to remain black, and in the shame of those who hid their identity as they entered the white world.

Steve Hatch
Cincinnati, OH

Dear FRONTLINE

Thank you for the insightful program, "Jefferson's Blood". It has been said that through the long history of the USA, there have been two main beliefs: 1 that "all men [people] are created equal"; and 2 that this country is the place for "white supremacy".

Since Jefferson wrote #1 and was a slave-owner, demonstrating #2, the contradictions in his life reflect the contradictions in America...

We will never be 100% sure of the Jefferson/Hemings relationship, but it's a lot more likely than other theories. Let us then reflect on what it means to America's "race problems" to see this monogamous, long-running relationship between an American president and his slave. We will gain from that reflection.

darren lane
charleston, illinois

click here for more
home …  view the report …  is it true? …  the jefferson enigma …  the slaves' story …  mixed race america
special video reports …  discussion …  links …  quiz …  chronology …  gene map
synopsis …  tapes …  teacher's guide …  press
FRONTLINE …  pbs online …  wgbh

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation


SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

NEXT ON FRONTLINE

The Rise of ISISOctober 28th

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS