And on Sally Hemmings:
In 2000-2001, I chaired the above-mentioned Jefferson-Hemings Scholars Commission, which included professors who had taught at Harvard, Yale, Oxford, Brown, UVA, and several other prestigious universities. After an intensive, year-long study, we concluded (with one mild dissent) that the charge that Thomas Jefferson fathered even one child by the enslaved Ms. Hemings is likely false.
The 1998 DNA study reported in the science journal Nature as having established Thomas Jefferson’s paternity of Sally Hemings’ youngest son Eston did not even have a sample of Thomas Jefferson’s DNA to test. Dr. Eugene Foster, who designed and oversaw the study, emphasized that the results pointed equally to any of the more than two-dozen adult Jefferson males known to have been in Virginia at the time. Based entirely upon the DNA evidence, the odds that Thomas Jefferson fathered Eston are under 5%.
For many generations, Eston’s descendants passed down the story that he was not President Jefferson’s child but the son of an “uncle.” President Jefferson’s much younger brother Randolph was known at Monticello as “Uncle Randolph” because of his relationship to the president’s daughter Martha, who ran the plantation when her father was in the White House.
Roughly 15 days before Eston’s most likely conception date, Randolph was invited to visit Monticello to see his beloved twin sister, who had returned from an extended absence. Randolph had five sons between the ages of 14 and 27 who would likely have accompanied him and would be more likely suspects than the 64-year-old President. The book Memoirs of a Monticello Slave notes that, when Randolph visited Monticello, he would “come out among black people, play his fiddle, and dance half the night.”
Our 400-page report is available on-line for anyone to read. Numerous efforts to arrange a debate have failed because no pro-paternity scholar has been willing to take part. The offer remains open.