Jefferson’s Three Daughters — Two Free, One Enslaved

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Passing, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2018-01-29 20:24Z by Steven

Jefferson’s Three Daughters — Two Free, One Enslaved

Book Review
The New York Times
2018-01-26

Mary Beth Norton, Mary Donlon Alger Professor of American History History
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

JEFFERSON’S DAUGHTERS
Three Sisters, White and Black, in a Young America
By Catherine Kerrison
Illustrated. 425 pp. Ballantine Books. $28.


Martha Jefferson Randolph
Credit Thomas Jefferson Foundation

Fawn Brodie would be astonished — and gratified. In 1974, her biography “Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History” contended that the third president had fathered children with his slave Sally Hemings. For this, Catherine Kerrison, a professor of American history at Villanova University, accurately notes, Brodie was “excoriated by a cadre of Jefferson experts.” A lot has changed, and largely because of the work of Annette Gordon-Reed, who took seriously Hemings family stories and, bolstered by a DNA study, convinced nearly all scholars, including Kerrison, that Brodie was correct. “Jefferson’s Daughters,” Kerrison’s beautifully written book, takes the relationship’s existence as a given.

And so, to a nuanced study of Jefferson’s two white daughters, Martha (born 1772) and Maria (born 1778), she innovatively adds a discussion of his only enslaved daughter, Harriet Hemings (born 1801). The result is a stunning if unavoidably imbalanced book, combining detailed treatments of Martha’s and Maria’s experiences with imaginative attempts to reconstruct Harriet’s life…

Read the entire review here.

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How did we lose a president’s daughter?

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Passing, Slavery, United States, Virginia, Women on 2018-01-29 00:05Z by Steven

How did we lose a president’s daughter?

The Washington Post
2018-01-25

Catherine Kerrison, Associate Professor of History
Villanova University, Villanova, Pennsylvania


Thomas Jefferson is shown in a painting by Rembrandt Peale. Jefferson was the father of several children born to Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman at Monticello, one of whom chose to pass as white rather than claim her relation to the president. (AP/New York Historical Society)

What the disappearance of Thomas Jefferson’s daughter can tell us about racism in America.

Many people know that Thomas Jefferson had a long-standing relationship with his slave, Sally Hemings. But fewer know that they had four children, three boys and a girl, who survived to adulthood. Born into slavery, Sally’s daughter Harriet boarded a stagecoach to freedom at age 21, bound for Washington, D.C. Her father had given her $50 for her travel expenses. She would never see her mother or younger brothers again.

With her departure from Monticello in 1822, Harriet disappeared from the historical record, not to be heard of again for more than 50 years, when her brother told her story. Seven-eighths white, Harriet had “thought it to her interest to go to Washington as a white woman,” he said. She married a “white man in good standing” in that city and “raised a family of children.” In the half-century during which she passed as white, her brother was “not aware that her identity as Harriet Hemings of Monticello has ever been discovered.”

So how did we lose a president’s daughter? Given America’s obsession with the Founding Fathers, with the children of the Revolution and their descendants, why did Jefferson’s child disappear? As it turns out, America has an even greater obsession with race, so that not even Harriet Hemings’s lineage as a president’s daughter was sufficient to convey the benefits of freedom. Instead, her birth into slavery marked her as black and drove her decision to erase her family history…

Catherine Kerrison is an associate professor of history at Villanova University, and the author of the forthcoming book “Jefferson’s Daughters: Three Sisters, White and Black in a Young America.”

Read the entire article here.

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Jefferson’s Daughters: Three Sisters, White and Black, in a Young America

Posted in Biography, Books, Forthcoming Media, History, Monographs, Passing, Slavery, United States, Virginia, Women on 2018-01-28 21:05Z by Steven

Jefferson’s Daughters: Three Sisters, White and Black, in a Young America

Ballantine Books
2018-01-30
448 pages
6.3 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1101886243
Paperback ISBN: 978-0525524380

Catherine Kerrison, Associate Professor of History
Villanova University, Villanova, Pennsylvania

The remarkable untold story of Thomas Jefferson’s three daughters—two white and free, one black and enslaved—and the divergent paths they forged in a newly independent America

Thomas Jefferson had three daughters: Martha and Maria by his wife, Martha Wayles Jefferson, and Harriet by his slave Sally Hemings. In Jefferson’s Daughters, Catherine Kerrison, a scholar of early American and women’s history, recounts the remarkable journey of these three women—and how their struggle to define themselves reflects both the possibilities and the limitations that resulted from the American Revolution.

Although the three women shared a father, the similarities end there. Martha and Maria received a fine convent school education while they lived with their father during his diplomatic posting in Paris—a hothouse of intellectual ferment whose celebrated salonnières are vividly brought to life in Kerrison’s narrative. Once they returned home, however, the sisters found their options limited by the laws and customs of early America.

Harriet Hemings followed a different path. She escaped slavery—apparently with the assistance of Jefferson himself. Leaving Monticello behind, she boarded a coach and set off for a decidedly uncertain future.

For this groundbreaking triple biography, Kerrison has uncovered never-before-published documents written by the Jefferson sisters when they were in their teens, as well as letters written by members of the Jefferson and Hemings families. She has interviewed Hemings family descendants (and, with their cooperation, initiated DNA testing) and searched for descendants of Harriet Hemings.

The eventful lives of Thomas Jefferson’s daughters provide a unique vantage point from which to examine the complicated patrimony of the American Revolution itself. The richly interwoven story of these three strong women and their fight to shape their own destinies sheds new light on the ongoing movement toward human rights in America—and on the personal and political legacy of one of our most controversial Founding Fathers.

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‘Always remember: You’re a Madison’

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2017-11-15 01:39Z by Steven

‘Always remember: You’re a Madison’

The Washington Post
2017-11-14

Krissah Thompson, Feature Writer


At Montpelier, four women with ties to the estate pose with the saliva vials they used to test their DNA. From left, Mary Alexander, descended from Madison’s slave Paul Jennings; Bettye Kearse; Conny Graft, descended from Madison’s sister; and Leontyne Peck. (Eduardo Montes-Bradley/Montpelier Foundation)

Oral history said she was descended from a president and an enslaved woman. But what would her DNA say?

ORANGE, Va. — In her mind’s eye, Bettye Kearse could see her ancestor walking the worn path that led from the big house to the slave quarters.

She thought of that path each time she pulled up the long, winding driveway leading to Montpelier, the rural Virginia plantation that was once home to President James Madison.

“The first time I came here was in 1992, and the moment I actually got on the grounds I felt I belonged,” said Kearse, a retired pediatrician who lives in the Boston area.

As an African American descendant of slaves, her feelings about the Founding Father, as a man and a historical figure, are decidedly ambivalent. But she has come to love his home. From the time she was a child, her mother had told her the family’s known history began on Madison’s property — and that they were, in fact, descendants of the president and an enslaved cook named Coreen. During each of her visits to Montpelier, Kearse felt the weight of her mother’s daunting request that she carry their story through oral history, following in the West African tradition of griots, or storytellers…


James Madison, 4th president of the United States created 1835. (Library of Congress)

…In 1834, two years before James Madison died, Betsey was purchased in Tennessee as a “companion” for Emanuel — the first documented reference to Kearse’s fore­father and foremother. In 1848, a slave owner named Jeptha Billingsley brought Emanuel and Betsey to Central Texas. They apparently had the last name Madison before emancipation.

All that Kearse’s generation knows about the couple comes from the bill of sale and details in Billingsley’s will. Betsey was a “light mulatto complexion Negro woman,” born around 1815. Emanuel was “a Negro man of dark complexion,” somewhere between six and 10 years Betsey’s senior. They had at least 11 children. Nine lived to adulthood…

Read the entire article here.

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My mother passed for white for most of her life. Here’s what that taught me about racial identity.

Posted in Articles, Biography, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Virginia on 2017-10-07 22:32Z by Steven

My mother passed for white for most of her life. Here’s what that taught me about racial identity.

Mic
2017-09-12

Gail Lukasik


Gail’s grandfather’s family that she never knew
Source: Gail Lukasik

Gail Lukasik, Ph.D. is a professional speaker, mystery novelist, and the author of the upcoming memoir, White Like Her: My Family’s Story of Race and Racial Passing (Skyhorse; Oct. 17).

For the majority of my life, I believed I was a white woman. I had no reason to question my race or my racial heritage. Why would I? I had only to look in the mirror to know the veracity of my whiteness — or so I thought.

In 1995, while scrolling through the 1900 Louisiana census records looking for my mother’s father, Azemar Frederic of New Orleans, I made a startling discovery. Azemar Frederic and his entire family were classified as black. In that split second, everything I knew about myself changed. When I walked into the Illinois family history center, I was a white woman. When I left I didn’t know who I was. My sense of identity was shattered…

Read the entire article here.

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Virginia Officials, Hidden Figures Author Join NASA in Honoring Legacy of Famed Mathematician; Live on NASA Television

Posted in Articles, Live Events, Media Archive, United States, Virginia, Women on 2017-09-22 15:48Z by Steven

Virginia Officials, Hidden Figures Author Join NASA in Honoring Legacy of Famed Mathematician; Live on NASA Television

National Aeronautics and Space Administration
NASA Langley
Media Advisory M17-105

Karen Northon
Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
202-358-1540

Mike Finneran
Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia
757-864-6110

2017-09-07


The Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.
Credits: NASA

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, and author Margot Lee Shetterly are among the dignitaries honoring Katherine Johnson, former NASA employee and central character of the book and movie Hidden Figures, at 1 p.m. [EDT] Sept. 22 at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

They will join Hampton Mayor Donnie Tuck and Langley Center Director David Bowles in cutting the ribbon to officially open the center’s new Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility, a state-of-the-art lab for innovative research and development supporting NASA’s exploration missions.

The event will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website. Media wishing to attend must contact Michael Finneran of the Langley communications office at 757-864-6110 or michael.p.finneran@nasa.gov.

Johnson, 99, will attend and participate in photo opportunities, but will not be available for interviews. A prerecorded message from her will be aired during the ceremony and a statement will be read.

Johnson was a “human computer” at Langley who calculated trajectories for America’s first spaceflights in the 1960s. The retired mathematician was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in 2015. Her contributions and those of other NASA African-American human computers are chronicled in the 2016 movie Hidden Figures, based on Lee-Shetterly’s book of the same name. She worked at Langley from 1953 until she retired in 1986.

For more about Johnson, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/content/katherine-johnson-biography

The Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility (CRF) is a $23-million, 37,000-square-foot, energy efficient structure that consolidates five Langley data centers and more than 30 server rooms. The facility will enhance NASA’s efforts in modeling and simulation, big data, and analysis. Much of the work now done by wind tunnels eventually will be performed by computers like those at the CRF.

For more information about Langley Research Center, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/langley

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Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson and the Ways We Talk About Our Past

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, United States, Virginia on 2017-08-26 22:38Z by Steven

Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson and the Ways We Talk About Our Past

The New York Times
2017-08-24

Annette Gordon-Reed, Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History; Professor of History, Faculty of Arts & Sciences
Harvard University


A photograph of Monticello from the late 1800s. Credit University of Virginia Library

It has been 20 years since the historian Annette Gordon-Reed published “Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy,” a book that successfully challenged the prevailing perceptions of both figures. In a piece for The New York Times Book Review, submitted just before the tragic events in Charlottesville, Va., Gordon-Reed reflects on the complexities that endure in our understanding of Hemings and the language we use to characterize her.

Sally Hemings has been described as “an enigma,” the enslaved woman who first came to public notice at the turn of the 19th century when James Callender, an enemy of the newly elected President Thomas Jefferson, wrote with racist virulence of “SALLY,” who lived at Monticello and had borne children by Jefferson. Hemings came back into the news earlier this year, after the Thomas Jefferson Foundation announced plans to restore a space where Hemings likely resided, for a time, at Monticello. A number of news reports as well as comments on social media discussing the plans drew the ire of many readers because they referred to Hemings as Jefferson’s “mistress” and used the word “relationship” to describe the connection between the pair, as if those words inevitably denote positive things. They do not, of course — especially when the word “mistress” is modified by the crucial word “enslaved.”

When I published my first book, “Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy,” in 1997, most people knew of Hemings from two works: Fawn Brodie’s biography “Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History” (1974) and Barbara Chase-Riboud’s novel “Sally Hemings” (1979), both of which sought to rescue Hemings’s personhood. More typically, the scholarship written to disprove her connection to Jefferson routinely diminished Hemings’s humanity. The arguments that the story couldn’t be true because Jefferson would never be involved with “a slave girl” and that such a person was too low to have influenced Jefferson recurred in various formulations in historical writings over many years, as if the designation “slave girl” told readers all they needed to know. My first book was designed to expose the inanity of those, and other, arguments. I wrote a second book, “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family,” to flesh out Hemings’s personal history…

Read the entire article here.

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Racism Comes Full Circle: America as the Harbinger of the Nazis’ Race Laws

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Europe, History, Law, Media Archive, Social Justice, United States, Virginia on 2017-08-15 19:00Z by Steven

Racism Comes Full Circle: America as the Harbinger of the Nazis’ Race Laws

Haaretz
2017-08-15

Oded Heilbronner, Lecturer in Cultural and Historical Studies
Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Shenkar College of Engineering and Design


Demonstrators carry confederate and Nazi flags during the Unite the Right free speech rally at Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA on August 12, 2017. Emily Molli / NurPhoto

James Q. Whitman, Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017)

Nazi sentiment was very much influenced by the American experience including the Jim Crow legislation in the South, Yale’s James Q. Whitman says in new book

A recent study has joined the constant flow of research on the Third Reich, an original work that sheds more light on a subject we thought we knew everything about: Nazi racism. It’s a subject all the more current after the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.

Countless books have been written on the sources of Nazi racism. Some reconstruct 500 years of German history, since the days of Martin Luther, and find the source of the Nazis’ murderous worldview. Others see Nazi ideology as a historical accident whose roots are to be found only in the few years before the rise of the Third Reich.

Others invoke European contexts: the Eastern European or French anti-Semitism on the eve of the 20th century, and the Communist revolution, whose shock waves included murderous anti-Semitism in Europe. We also must not ignore the biographical-psychological studies that focus on the pathological anti-Semitism developed by the Nazis, with Hitler at their head.

The unique work of Prof. James Q. Whitman of Yale Law School, whose previous book explored the growing divide between criminal law and punishment in America compared to Europe, belongs to a long series of research noting the global contexts in which decisions are made and events occurred both regionally and domestically…

…Based on a long series of modern studies, Whitman says the Nuremberg Laws were crafted so as to create citizenship laws based on racial categories. The main motive for the legislation was to prevent mixed marriages, which would lead to the birth of mixed-race children and “racial pollution.” At the center of the debate that preceded the Nuremberg Laws was the aspiration to construct a legal code that would prevent such situations. American precedents, which were meant to make African-Americans, Chinese and Filipinos second-class citizens, provided inspiration for the Nazis…

Read the entire article here.

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I’m a black student at the University of Virginia. What I found when I went back Sunday

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Social Justice, United States, Virginia on 2017-08-15 18:17Z by Steven

I’m a black student at the University of Virginia. What I found when I went back Sunday

The Charlotte Observer
Charlotte, North Carolina
2017-08-14

Brianna Hamblin, Special to the Observer editorial board


Brianna Hamblin

Brianna Hamblin, an intern at the Charlotte Observer this summer, is entering her senior year at the University of Virginia.

I am a student at the University of Virginia, getting ready to start my fourth year. When I looked up to see my city in the news Saturday morning, my heart dropped.

I was in line to check out of my hotel before catching a flight back to Virginia when I saw on CNN, “BREAKING NEWS: STATE OF EMERGENCY IN VA AND VIOLENT WHITE NATIONALIST PROTESTS.” The video showed a crowd of people coming from the left and right sides, meeting in the middle with punches. Men in black shirts carrying shields charged from the right. To the left a woman was punched. In the top corner of the TV Screen: Charlottesville, Virginia

One person has been confirmed dead and 19 people injured after a car plowed into a crowd marching peacefully in downtown Charlottesville, Va.

This wasn’t happening in a poor foreign country. This wasn’t in a big city hundreds of miles away from my family and friends. This was happening down the street from my apartment.

I have been reporting and helping other reporters tell the story of the controversy surrounding the Robert E. Lee and “Stonewall” Jackson statues since summer of 2015. I’ve listened to every opinion on the subject, but after this weekend I believe that Americans have been shown their answer. We can no longer deny the symbol of white supremacy that the statues are for these men when they chant “Blood and Soil” – a Nazi Germany chant – and “Jews will not replace us.”

As an African American woman, I already know that I am everything they hate. I am light-skinned with German ancestry. I am an exact representation of the “white genocide” they fear. That did not stop me from driving back to Charlottesville Sunday night. I ignored family members and friends who told me not to go. I held my breath as I drove past the rotunda, trying to imagine what it looked like when hundreds of men with torches marched on it…

Read the entire article here.

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Death of ‘a devil’: The white supremacist got hit by a car. His victims celebrated.

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States, Virginia on 2017-08-03 18:23Z by Steven

Death of ‘a devil’: The white supremacist got hit by a car. His victims celebrated.

The Washington Post
2017-08-02

John Woodrow Cox, Reporter


Walter A. Plecker, an avowed white supremacist who ran Virginia’s Bureau of Vital Statistics for 34 years, in Richmond. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

He built his career on the systematic oppression of blacks and Native Americans, becoming one of the country’s most influential white supremacists. For more than three decades, from 1912 until 1946, Walter Ashby Plecker used his position as head of Virginia’s Bureau of Vital Statistics to champion policies designed to protect what he considered a master white race.

He was the father of the state’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which designated every person in the state as either white or “colored” and criminalized interracial marriage. Plecker insisted that any person with a single drop of “Negro” blood couldn’t be classified as white, and he refused to even acknowledge that Native Americans existed in the commonwealth, effectively erasing their legal identities.

Then, on Aug. 2, 1947 — one year after his retirement — Plecker stepped into a road in the Confederacy’s former capital and was hit by a car. Blacks and Indians had good reason to celebrate…


A column on the death of Walter Plecker that appeared in the Richmond Afro-American on Aug. 23, 1947.

Read the entire article here.

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