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I hesitate to recommend this serious book but there may be lighter ones that treat Sally fairly. Make sure they're recent. Oddly enough, the author isn't quite as sure as I am that the story is true--even with the DNA tests that came after this book was published. Those tests btw prove that men claiming to be Sally's children were and their father was someone in the Jefferson line--but not necessarily Thomas.

Take away--beware of getting your history of sacred cows from the undisputed champion biographers. By the 6th volume, they are too invested to dig for the truth--even if they mention it Apr 08, Linda rated it liked it. I find it interesting that I cannot find the proper title of the book on Goodreads. When I search for that book on this site, I get some funky collection of articles on Wiki-pedia.

I have no idea what's going on there. This book differs from others on the subject perhaps from the perspective of the author. She is writing and investigating a much rehashed topic from the inside out. Being a woman of color, she unde I find it interesting that I cannot find the proper title of the book on Goodreads.

Being a woman of color, she understands what questions have not been asked before. She frames her research from a different curiosity, she understands the circumspect behavior of blacks to the white community. Her innate understandings allow us to peek underneath the covers of slave responses to their Massus.

In an attempt to anticipate criticism I felt like at times she flogged a dead horse with repetitive examples of the points she was making. And due to the convention of reusing given names during this period of histoy, it is nearly impossible to keep the characters straight. There's not much Gordon-Reed could have done about that dilemma, however, I found myself looking for some sort of list or family tree to help figure it all out.

I believe this is a carefully researched book and added substantially to my understanding of that period of American history and the complex character of Thomas Jefferson. Aug 08, Doug rated it did not like it Shelves: presidents , history. I agree with Professor Gordon-Reed on one point; professional historians have made a mess of things.

But she has done no better. Believers will be reinforced. Skeptics will feel secure.

Those approaching with an open mind will be unable to decide. Several attempts are made to prove a negative e. Edmund Bacon had close ties by , not starting in And some of the evidence is mi I agree with Professor Gordon-Reed on one point; professional historians have made a mess of things. And some of the evidence is missing completely. One of the prime suspects, Randolph Jefferson, is not mentioned once, even though the Eston Hemings family claimed him as their ancestor for years.

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The inconclusive DNA testing was completed after the book was published. If you're looking for answers, read other books on the subject. Because no matter what your final conclusion, this is a poorly written book. Dec 31, Omar rated it really liked it Shelves: a-strange-brand-of-feminism , elitism , gender-and-sex , history , making-connections , race-and-ethnicity , americana. A solid book.

I particularly liked the textual analysis of previous historians' work or lack thereof on this topic. This is not the book to read if you want a strong attempt to develop a picture of Sally Hemings as a person it provides a better view of Jefferson, in that sense ; also, far from a completely conclusive 'proof' of Jefferson fathering Hemings' children; but a great introduction to the flaws in the traditional scholarship on this topic in that it's not been scholarly at all and a A solid book.


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This is not the book to read if you want a strong attempt to develop a picture of Sally Hemings as a person it provides a better view of Jefferson, in that sense ; also, far from a completely conclusive 'proof' of Jefferson fathering Hemings' children; but a great introduction to the flaws in the traditional scholarship on this topic in that it's not been scholarly at all and a strong argument that Jefferson may very well have been Hemings' co-parent. Also, an interesting look into the possible mindsets of Hemings' adult children. If you want an attempt to extrapolate more about who Hemings was as a person and more about her relationship to Jefferson, read Gordon-Reed's follow up, 'The Hemings of Monticello'.

Apr 15, Raven rated it it was amazing. An excellent lesson to scholars on how to apply meticulous academic rigor to an accretion of the evidence. Somewhat metatextual commentary, this is a history of how American culture has reacted to the idea that Jefferson had a lengthy relationship with Hemings and fathered her children.

Gordon-Reed gives thoughtful commentary in the wake of lots of freaked-out accusatory handwaving and political points-scoring, while underscoring the emotional repercussions of history's handling of the question An excellent lesson to scholars on how to apply meticulous academic rigor to an accretion of the evidence. Gordon-Reed gives thoughtful commentary in the wake of lots of freaked-out accusatory handwaving and political points-scoring, while underscoring the emotional repercussions of history's handling of the question to people learning about it for the first time or hearing it discussed.

I kinda want to go read a bunch more background info about Jefferson's life and then read this again -- the author is deeply versed in her subject and it can be a bit of a challenge to keep up if you're not familiar with the sources she cites. Still, work worth doing. Jan 12, John added it. My second time reading it. It was time for someone to set the record straight on My second time reading it. It was time for someone to set the record straight on that, and I think she did a good job. As Alex Haley once wrote, history is not always written by the winners, and I think that fairly describes how the history was written when it came to the story of an enslaved family that was part of the Monticello household.

The book is lawyerly, so may be dry reading for some. Sep 28, Karla rated it liked it Shelves: non-fiction , read-in This book was a solid medium. This author was clearly not a historian, you can see her legal background in her writing style. No original research here, mostly analysis of previous research.

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It had wonderful appendices and primary sources. She was rather repetitive and I would have organized the material more clea This book was a solid medium. She was rather repetitive and I would have organized the material more clearly to reduce the repetition.

Hidden Room Of Thomas Jefferson's Mansion Solves Year Old Mystery - History

This book could have been much shorter with better editing and organization. She used the "human being" argument so frequently it lost its impact. Overall I did like this book, and feel more informed after reading it. Jan 24, Lam rated it liked it. I started reading this book after I finished The Hemingses of Monticello, thinking I might learn even more about the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and the enslaved Sally Hemings. But in fact, this book was written long before the other one.

Who Was Sally Hemings?

It is a study of how, up until the time this book was written, most white historians accepted as gospel truth anything Thomas Jefferson's white descendants and other white people said about him and ignored or denigrated anything that his children by S I started reading this book after I finished The Hemingses of Monticello, thinking I might learn even more about the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and the enslaved Sally Hemings. It is a study of how, up until the time this book was written, most white historians accepted as gospel truth anything Thomas Jefferson's white descendants and other white people said about him and ignored or denigrated anything that his children by Sally Hemings said.

A very interesting look at racism among historians that should make all of us question everything we were taught in school. That said, I must confess I read only about half of the book. I got the gist and then couldn't plow through any more of the author's prose. Sep 25, Rebecca Dunbar rated it it was amazing. An excellent book, looking at the oral testimonies of Madison Hemings and Thomas Jefferson's white relations, rather than providing an imbalanced account from either side, which had hitherto been the case.

Since its release, DNA evidence proved that Thomas Jefferson had fathered at least one of Sally Hemming's children, and scholars are now in agreement that their relationship spanned a year period. Here, pre-DNA tests, Gordon-Reed seeks to redraw the balance in America's 'white' and 'black' An excellent book, looking at the oral testimonies of Madison Hemings and Thomas Jefferson's white relations, rather than providing an imbalanced account from either side, which had hitherto been the case.

Here, pre-DNA tests, Gordon-Reed seeks to redraw the balance in America's 'white' and 'black' historical interpretations, and she does so with aplomb. Oct 23, Alessandra rated it liked it. An incisive critique of the Jefferson historiography concerning the alleged year affair between Jefferson and Sally Hemings, a slave at Monticello. Gordon-Reed builds her case against the white-supremacist-laden arguments of the Jefferson apologist encampment. An expert model for historians on how to address evidence source material.

The organization made for a convincing argument, but a lackluster story. Aug 05, Michael Kocher rated it really liked it. Gordon-Reed tries to dissect the study of history as much as she tries to prove what really happened at Monticello. It makes an excellent point on how women, african americans, and the poor and disadvantaged are not represented fairly in the study of American History.

Jefferson's Monticello gets a renovation with Sally Hemings in mind

It's far too muddled though and some chapters are nothing but rambling rants. Mar 09, Lambeam rated it liked it. All one could possibly want to know about the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. Recent DNA findings aside, I had no idea that it was a continuing controversy.


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  • Gordon-Reed is a lawyer who presents the argument for the relationship as if someone had taken the affair to court. Certainly a thorough document, but the vehicle becomes long and tiresome - amazing the amount of angels dancing on the head of this particular pin. The author presented and deconstructed the current arguments for and against the Jefferson-Hemings controversy this was written in before the DNA testing.

    Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: The Search for Truth

    She questions source's motives and pointed out their bias. More options. Find it at other libraries via WorldCat Limited preview. Contributor Turner, Robert F. Bibliography Includes bibliographical references and index. Contents Understanding the DNA evidence linking Eston Hemings to Thomas Jefferson's cousins The enigmatic Sally Hemings : so few facts, so much fantasy and speculation James Thomson Callender and the origins of the Jefferson-Hemings scandal Madison Hemings' "memoir" in the Pike County Republican Thomas Jefferson's visitation patterns to Monticello and their correlation with Sally Hemings' conceptions "Extraordinary privileges" for Sally Hemings and her children The physical resemblance of some of Sally Hemings' children to Thomas Jefferson Reassessing the oral tradition of Sally Hemings' descendants Miscellaneous arguments said to support Thomas Jefferson's paternity of Sally Hemings' children Revisionist arguments reconsidered : evidence too quickly dismissed?