This book won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize! “A sweeping, prodigiously researched biography.”- Motoko Rich.“A monumental and original book.”- Fergus Bordewich. “A brilliant book…It marks the author as one of the most astute, insightful, and forthright historians of this generation.”- Edmund S. Morgan and Marie Morgan. “[A] very important and powerfully argued history of the Hemings family…[Gordon-Reed] has the imagination and talent of an expert historian.”- Gordon S. Wood.
“A riveting and compassionate family portrait that deserves to endure as a model of historical inquiry…stands dramatically apart for its searching intelligence and breadth of humane vision…We owe Annette Gordon-Reed tremendous thanks.”- Kirk Davis Swinehart. Here's the background: although rumors had existed earlier, it was in 1802 that widely circulated contemporary written accounts first alleged that Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings were sexual partners, and that their unions had resulted in offspring. No written records of the matter by either Jefferson or Hemings have been found. Of the six children of Sally Hemings, three joined white society and three chose the Black community. After Jefferson's death, descendants of his white kinfolks rejected the possibility of his paternity. Nevertheless, two of Sally Hemings's children did claim him as their father and that was passed down orally in their families into the present. In 1954 Ebony carried an article, "Thomas Jefferson's Negro Grandchildren," and in 1961 the Journal of Negro History carried an article, "Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings" by Pearl M. Graham. More articles on the subject began to surface in the 1970s, and the book, Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History by Fawn M. Brodie (1974) unambiguously maintained the veracity of their relationship in a way that has been denied but has not been ignored ever since. This book is the first full-length study of the Hemings family. Sally Hemings' grandmother was born of an African woman and a white sea captain. Her mother, Elizabeth Hemings had six children. Half of them, including Sally Hemings were probably fathered by her owner, John Wayles, who was also Thomas Jefferson's father-in-law. The author of this first authoritative study of Hemings family is an African-American woman who teaches law at New York University and history at Rutgers.
New York: W. W. Norton, 2008. 798 pages with an Index, Selected Bibliography, Notes, Chronology and photos. Hardback in dust jacket.