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Rumors of Thomas Jefferson's sexual involvement with his slave Sally Hemings have circulated for two centuries. It remains, among all aspects of Jefferson's renowned life, perhaps the most hotly contested topic. With Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, Annette Gordon-Reed promises to intensify this ongoing debate as she identifies glaring inconsistencies in many noted scholars' evaluations of the existing evidence. She has assembled a fascinating and convincing argument: not that the alleged thirty-eight-year liaison necessarily took place but rather that the evidence for its taking place has been denied a fair hearing. Friends of Jefferson sought to debunk the Hemings story as early as 1800, and most subsequent historians and biographers have followed suit, finding the affair unthinkable based upon their view of Jefferson's life, character, and beliefs. Gordon-Reed responds to these critics by pointing out numerous errors and prejudices in their writings, ranging from inaccurate citations, to impossible time lines, to virtual exclusions of evidence - especially evidence concerning the Hemings family. She demonstrates how these scholars may have been misguided by their own biases and may even have tailored evidence to serve and preserve their opinions of Jefferson. Possessing both a layperson's unfettered curiosity and a lawyer's logical mind. Annette Gordon-Reed writes with a style and compassion that are irresistible. Each chapter revolves around a key figure in the Hemings drama, and the resulting portraits are engrossing and very personnel. Gordon-Reed also brings a keen intuitive sense of the psychological complexities of human relationships - relationships that, in the realworld, often develop regardless of status or race. The most compelling element of all, however, is her extensive and careful research, which often allows the evidence to speak for itself. Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings is a controversial new look at a centuries-old question that should fascinate general readers and historians alike. It promises to be the definitive word on the subject for years to come.
ISBN: 0-8139-1698-4
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