That Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings had an intimate relationship has been established by science through DNA tests, and accepted by all but the crankiest remnants of the once powerful Jefferson establishment. Now the debate has shifted. Instead of questioning whether a relationship existed, scholars and writers are asking whether it was consensual. Could a master and slave experience romantic love in the way Jefferson and Hemings have been popularly imagined? If not, can we accept a Thomas Jefferson who took advantage of a young slave girl in a way that was not unusual for slaveholders of his time?
In this special video report, FRONTLINE asked New York Law School Professor Annette Gordon-Reed, author of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Contrversy (1997), and U.C.L.A. historian Brenda Stevenson, author of Life in Black and White: Family and Community in the Slave South (1996), to explore these questions from their differing disciplines and perspectives.