LIAR Annette Gordon-Reed Exposed
Dianne Swann-Wright of Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation discredited
One More Visit to the Thomas Jefferson-
Sally Hemings Controversy
You will remember that a certain report in Nature
magazine concluded that Thomas Jefferson did father
children by one of his slaves, Sally Hemings. This appeared
just as charges were being investigated concerning former
President Clinton's extramarital affairs. Then, as though
to add credibility to the Nature article, the Thomas
Jefferson Memorial Foundation reached the same conclusion
in January 2000 just as a major $100 million fundraising
campaign was launched by the Foundation. These two
announcements now seem to have been hastily made for
reasons other than to find the truth about Thomas Jefferson.
Now, more than a year later, we welcome the results of
a team of scholars who have issued a report on those
reports. Rather than delve into the details of the
scholarly work in this letter, we direct your inquiry to
the website of the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society at
http://www.tjheritage.org. We give here some excerpts and
summaries of several articles that help us to understand
the shaky foundation on which the original assumptions
As Eyler Robert Coates says in his critical analysis:
"On January 26, 2000, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial
Foundation announced that it had reached a conclusion
concerning the Jefferson-Hemings controversy. Their basic
finding was that there is "a high probability that Thomas
Jefferson fathered Eston Hemings, and that he most likely
was the father of all six of Sally Hemings' children.'
However, an examination of this report and the methodology
used in preparing it, shows it to be an unprofessional,
unscientific accumulation of bias and prejudice, and an
offense to the memory of the great man that this foundation
was chartered to memorialize.
"One would expect the Foundation at least to give
Thomas Jefferson the benefit of the doubt in the face of
the many scurrilous attacks that have been made on his
character over the years, for which there is not one shred
of direct evidence. But as we shall demonstrate below, the
exact opposite is the case. The best evidence was
suppressed or ignored, competent persons having opposing
views were not consulted, and many alternative but
reasonable explanations for the circumstantial evidence
were disregarded. As the reader of this analysis will
clearly see, it is obvious that the entire controversy was
approached, not as advertised (and as Jefferson had
written), 'to follow truth wherever it may lead.' Rather,
there was a deliberate attempt to select and mold the
evidence to fit a pre-selected theory and to avoid anything
that might resemble genuine balance. The results and
conclusions became precise illustrations of something that
Jefferson had written on a different occasion:
'The moment a person forms a theory, his imagination
sees, in every object, only the traits which favor that
theory.' --Thomas Jefferson to Charles Thompson, 1787.
"This travesty of a report sees in every point only those
aspects that favor the preconceived theory. It leaves
unconsidered much evidence that would tend to exonerate
Jefferson, and it avoids connecting different pieces of
evidence that would point away from Thomas Jefferson to
some other member of his family or household.
James P. Lucier, in an article entitled The Fable of
Tom and Sally in a recent issue of Insight Magazine, gives
his observations as follows:
"The report issued by an in-house committee at
Monticello seemed clear enough. The committee said its
review of the subject 'indicates a high probability that
Thomas Jefferson fathered Eston Hemings, and that he most
likely was the father of all six of Sally Heming's children
appearing in Jefferson's records.' Rather than being
embarrassed by the new twist, the authors concluded that
'the implications of the relationship between Sally
Hemings and Thomas Jefferson should be explored and used to
enrich the understanding and interpretation of Jefferson
and the entire Monticello community.' Thus was born a new
Jefferson for a new age. Shortly thereafter, the Thomas
Jefferson Memorial Foundation dropped the word 'Memorial'
from its name.
"Critics noted that the membership of the in-house
committee included very few names of persons experienced in
analysis of historical data. It was chaired by Dianne
Swann-Wright, a Ph.D. candidate still struggling to write
her dissertation. She apparently has published no peer-
reviewed work and nothing on Jefferson himself. After
repeated phone inquiries, she promised to call back with
examples of her work but never did. In other writing, she
has portrayed herself as a child of the civil-rights
generation, identifying with the four young girls brutally
murdered in the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Ala.
Critics have charged that she was overly influenced by the
work of Annette Gordon-Reed, whose book Thomas Jefferson
and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy, seemed to
provide a road map for the subsequent Monticello study.
"Other members included an architect, an archaeologist, a
geneticist, the head guide and a communications officer. A
medical doctor wrote a dissenting report, only to have it
ignored when the majority report was first published. The
only recognized historian in the group was staff researcher
Lucia Stanton, known for her meticulous work on Jefferson's
"But now after a year of study and deliberations a
committee of 13 distinguished scholars - the cream of U.S.
historical researchers - has released a 565-page report
demonstrating in a gentlemanly way that almost all of
Monticello's presumptions are thin at best and based on
shoddy scholarship, improbable assumptions and even
doctored documents. The report was unanimous, although one
professor expressed several minority reservations.
"Moreover, another rebuttal issued at the same time by
a third group, the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society, took
a tougher attack based on firsthand accounts of dissidents
from the Monticello group as well as legal and
"Is this just a tempest in an academic teapot? Not so,
according to experts interviewed by Insight; it is a battle
for the interpretation of America's heritage and the way
future generations view the founders of the nation.
University of Virginia law professor Robert Turner,
chairman of the distinguished scholars committee, is a man
who cares deeply about such things. 'For a few weeks, I
thought the Monticello report was right,' he tells Insight.
'But I went to a luncheon, and as we went around the room
everybody said it was a poor piece of work. Then I
downloaded it from the Web, and it read like an advocacy
piece. I've been studying Jefferson for close to 30 years
and I thought he deserved a fair hearing.'
"Then Turner began to put together the group of
Jefferson scholars to examine the evidence piece by piece
-authors mostly with several Jefferson books to their
credit, history department chairmen, directors of graduate
studies. 'We had a diverse group,' says Turner. 'I wanted
people of exceptional ability. But I also wanted people of
courage. I told them I don't care what you think, but you
must agree to pursue the truth.'
"The scholars examined the evidence individually,
then got together for 15 hours of face-to-face meetings.
'We have found most of the arguments used to point
suspicion toward Thomas Jefferson to be unpersuasive and
often factually erroneous,' they wrote. 'Not a single
member of our group, after an investigation lasting roughly
one year, finds the case against Thomas Jefferson to be
highly compelling, and the overwhelming majority of us
believe it is very unlikely that he fathered any children
by Sally Hemings.'"
Let's chalk another one up for the Founders!
Earl Taylor, Jr.