After nearly three years of lies and 200 of libel, American scholarship has decided that Thomas Jefferson probably did not sire children by his slave Sally Hemings after all. The news has yet to be published by the same papers and magazines that in 1998 assured us that Jefferson had "almost certainly" fathered a child of Hemings, as The Washington Post repeatedly reported, nor has it trickled up to the heavyweights in the Bush White House, where the president last week signed a proclamation celebrating Jefferson's birth in the presence of his phony "descendants." Nevertheless, as Jefferson himself always believed, the truth has a bad habit of coming out.
The truth has now been disclosed by a panel called the Scholars' Commission on the Jefferson-Hemings Issue, which has released a 500-page study of the question and concluded that the youngest son of Sally Hemings, Eston Hemings, probably was not fathered by Thomas Jefferson, as the 1998 study of the DNA of the male Jefferson line was interpreted to suggest, but by Thomas' brother, Randolph.
"The circumstantial case that Eston Hemings was fathered by the president's younger brother is many times stronger than the case against the president himself," the report stated. There is evidence that Randolph was present at Jefferson's home at the time Hemings conceived her child, and the presidential brother's character and behavior lend credibility to the theory that he was the father. The 1998 genetic study proved only that descendants of the Heming line carried a chromosome that must have come from a male of the Jefferson line—not that any particular Jefferson contributed the chromosome.
So what? Why is it important, one way or another, whether Thomas did or didn't father a child on one of his slaves? It's important because the claim that he did was immediately used—and is still used—to discredit him and prove the sexual exploitation of female slaves by even the most distinguished white masters.
Thus, the most recent pseudo-scholar to twist the evidence is a sage named Joe Feagin [Email him], who is not a marginal crank but happens to be president of the American Sociological Association. In his new contribution to learning, "Racist America: Roots, Current Realities, and Future Reparations," Professor Feagin tells us how Jefferson "coerced" Sally Hemings into a sexual relationship and assures us that Jefferson's paternity of at least one of Hemings' children "has now been confirmed by DNA testing."
Not only did Professor Feagin miss the report of the new panel, but also he managed to scramble the interpretation of the old study, which nowhere even hinted that Jefferson had "coerced" anybody. Nevertheless, the lie, built on the misinterpretation, is presented as fact and is conscripted into the never-ending case for reparations.
As for the Bush White House, it too has lent its authority to the further distortion of history and the defamation of a Founding Father by helping to perpetuate the lie. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer announced last week that President Bush would sign the birthday proclamation for the nation's third president "in the presence of Jefferson's descendants, including both family members from his marriage ... and his descendants from Sally Hemings." Yet the White House insists it does not take a position in the Jefferson-Hemings controversy. Hello?
Obviously, the wording of Mr. Fleischer's statement implies that the White House recognizes the Jefferson paternity theory as real. Another, anonymous spokesman told The Washington Times, "The president fully understood that some might not agree with the decision to share this event with the entire family, or choose to be as inclusive but he felt that it was appropriate to bring these individuals together." So, you see, if you don't buy the opinion that Jefferson did father one of Hemings' children, you're not being "inclusive." The question, of course, is whether the "entire family" includes the Hemings line or not.
The same press that put the falsehoods about Jefferson on their front pages three years ago have never bothered to rake up the full truth about the plagiarism of Martin Luther King, let alone King's own sexual voracity, and when King's friend Ralph Abernathy did publish details of the civil rights leader's steamy sex life, he was nearly ruined because of it. Apparently, only the sexual peccadilloes of white icons are fit to print.
There is every reason for both the media and serious scholars to disclose the dark side of all historical figures, and there is plenty among America's white leaders that has not yet been disclosed. But the new report on the "Jefferson-Hemings Matter" tells us as surely as any disclosure ever has that no small amount of what both the press and a good many who pass for "scholars" inflict on the public is not history at all but merely the most transparent political propaganda.
COPYRIGHT 2001 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
April 23, 2001