The Legacy of Monticello’s Black First Family

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2018-07-06 03:13Z by Steven

The Legacy of Monticello’s Black First Family

The New York Times
2018-07-04

Brent Staples
Photographs by Damon Winter


A view of Thomas Jefferson’s home from the main avenue where enslaved people were quartered at Monticello.

A recently opened exhibit at Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia estate gives new recognition to Sally Hemings and the role of slavery in the home — and in his family.

Plantation wives in the slave-era South resorted to willful blindness when their husbands conscripted black women as sexual servants and filled the household with mixed-race children who inevitably resembled the master. Thomas Jefferson’s wife, Martha, was several years dead when he set off on this path, fathering at least six children with Martha’s enslaved black half sister, Sally Hemings. The task of dissembling fell to the remaining white Jeffersons, who aided in a cover-up that held sway for two centuries and feigned ignorance of a relationship between Jefferson and Hemings that lasted nearly four decades.

The foundation that owns Monticello, Jefferson’s mountaintop home near Charlottesville, Va., broke with this long-running deception last month when it unveiled several new exhibits that underscore the centrality of slavery on the founder’s estate. The most important — in the South Wing, where Sally Hemings once lived — explores the legacy of the enslaved woman whom some historians view as the president’s second wife and who skillfully prevailed on him to free from slavery the four Jefferson-Hemings children who lived into adulthood.

The exhibit underscores the fact that the Jefferson estate was an epicenter of racial mixing in early Virginia, making it impossible to draw clear lines between black and white. It reminds contemporary Americans that slave owners like the Jeffersons often held their own black children, aunts, uncles and cousins in bondage. And it illustrates how enslaved near-white relations used proximity to privilege to demystify whiteness while taking critical measure of the relatives who owned them…

Read the entire article here.

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People of Mixed Ancestry in the Seventeenth-Century Chesapeake: Freedom, Bondage, and the Rise of Hypodescent Ideology

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2018-04-05 02:58Z by Steven

People of Mixed Ancestry in the Seventeenth-Century Chesapeake: Freedom, Bondage, and the Rise of Hypodescent Ideology

Journal of Social History
Published: 2017-10-17
DOI: 10.1093/jsh/shx113

A. B. Wilkinson, Assistant Professor of History
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

This article examines the origins of mixed-race ideologies and people of mixed African, European, and Native American ancestry—commonly identified as mulattoes—in the seventeenth-century English colonial Chesapeake and wider Atlantic world. Arguably, for the better part of the century, English colonial societies in the Chesapeake resembled Latin America and other Atlantic island colonies in allowing a relatively flexible social hierarchy, in which certain mixed-heritage people benefitted from their European lineage. Chesapeake authorities began to slowly set their provinces apart from their English colonial counterparts in the 1660s, when they enacted laws to deter intimate intermixture between Europeans and other ethnoracial groups and set policies that punished mixed-heritage children. Colonial officials attempted to use the legal system to restrict people of mixed ancestry, Africans, and Native Americans in bondage. These efforts supported the ideology of hypodescent, where children of mixed lineage are relegated more closely to the position of their socially inferior parentage. However, from the 1660s through the 1680s, these laws were unevenly enforced, and mixture increased with the growth of African slaves imported into the region. While many mulattoes were enslaved during this period, others were able to rely on their European heritage or racial whiteness. This allowed them to gain or maintain freedom for themselves and their families, before Virginia and Maryland institutionalized greater restrictions in the 1690s.

Read or purchase the article here.

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

Posted in Biography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, Slavery, United States, Virginia, Women on 2018-02-22 05:03Z 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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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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‘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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