The most blatant example of activity at UVA initiated by politically motivated faculty, especially in the history department and in the alumni magazine, is the lie that says Jefferson fathered Sally Heming’s children. After months of study, it is clear to me that this lie is bogus and is repeated purely to prove how slaves were mistreated. Promulgation of this lie has blackened Jefferson’s reputation and has led to calls to “cancel” his memory.
I have watched The Jefferson Council attack not very significant happenings at the University from people with the same kind of motivations while ignoring the biggest travesty of all. You seem to be pursuing capillaries while ignoring the hemorrhaging of the main artery.
The belief on this paternity theory rests on a deliberately misleading interpretation of the DNA test. That test concluded that one of Heming’s children, Eston, conceived when Jefferson was 64 years old, had genes shared with the male Jefferson line. The Heming’s descendants, happy to be able to brag they were descended from Thomas Jefferson (which the DNA test had not established), refused to allow any other Heming descendants to be DNA tested.
Episode 3 of the Smithsonian Channel’s “One Thousand Years of Slavery,” presently viewable, featured a Heming descendant, a 43-year-old television commentator named Shannon LaNier who lives in NYC. He is all over Google, having written a book in 2000 entitled “Jefferson’s Children: The Story of One American Family” and is quoted in articles as demanding Jefferson’s monuments be removed. He says the vilest things about Jefferson. I have not yet found out which Heming’s child he claims is his ancestor, although I assume it is not Eston.
For all I know, he has already tested his DNA with one of the commercial companies. In any event, he and his living relatives who similarly claim they are Jefferson ancestors should be asked to have their DNA tested. If they refuse it would make a great story and may get a Judge to order them to submit to a DNA test. According to the most recent thinking, such as in William Hyland’s new book, “Family Secrets”, other that Eston, who was probably fathered by Jefferson’s younger brother who was between marriages when Eston was conceived, the rest of Heming’s children were likely fathered by one of the Carr brothers. Imagine if the non-Eston descendants have no Jefferson family DNA in their blood and do have Carr DNA. It will expose the myth once and for all!
A number of UVA faculty teach the paternity theory and claim it is proven conclusively. Shouldn’t the Law School, which is supposed to teach its students how to separate truth from fiction, or even the College, offer a course taught by someone, like Turner or Hyland, who will review the contrary evidence?
I strongly recommend that The Jefferson Council turn its attention to this issue. Nothing else going on at UVA is as important to what you are trying to achieve.
— Joseph R. Sahid
Law School, Class of ’68