• Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings

  • An American Controversy
  • By: Annette Gordon-Reed
  • Narrated by: Allyson Johnson
  • Length: 12 hrs and 57 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (43 ratings)

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Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings

By: Annette Gordon-Reed
Narrated by: Allyson Johnson
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Publisher's Summary

When Annette Gordon-Reed's groundbreaking study was first published, rumors of Thomas Jefferson's sexual involvement with his slave Sally Hemings had circulated for two centuries. Among all aspects of Jefferson's renowned life, it was perhaps the most hotly contested topic. The publication of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings intensified this debate by identifying glaring inconsistencies in many noted scholars' evaluations of the existing evidence. In this study, Gordon-Reed assembles a fascinating and convincing argument: not that the alleged 38-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 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.

©1997 the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia (P)2020 Tantor

What listeners say about Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

A Full Review of the Relationship between Hemmings and Jefferson

While an intimate relationship between Hemmings and Jefferson cannot be proved, the author lays out a very strong case that it is likely. Using the facts known and logic and examining all testimony concerning the matter as if it were a legal case, she is able to show how discounters of the relationship were motivated by their feelings for Jefferson or their bias against the testimony of slaves and former slaves.
In that way, it tells us as much about ourselves as it does about Hemmings and Jefferson.

3 people found this helpful

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Just people

The more that is read about Jefferson, the more I feel sorry for him as he is treated as this above all leader or a slave owning monster, this book reminds us that Jefferson was only a man with the same flaws as everyone who has lived. I find myself hoping that he and Ms. Hemings found some type of comfort with each other.

3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Well-Done Historical Debate

This book does an excellent job of presenting the evidence for -- and against -- the affair between Thomas Jefferson and his slave, Sally Hemings. As a law professor Gordon-Reed does present her arguments in a way that feels more like a courtroom case than a study of history, but she does build a solid case for the relationship between Jefferson and Hemings while also providing sound arguments against many of the objections. Well worth the time for anyone who wants to know more about Jefferson the man rather than Jefferson the Founding Father as well as for those interested in the relationship between Jefferson, slavery in general, and his own slaves in particular, especially the Hemings.

2 people found this helpful

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Well researched and thought out....

It took me a while to adjust to the narrator, but the further she went, the more I came to appreciate her ability and preparation. This book is well-researched and is painstakingly founded on incredible logic and open-mindedness. The research is exhaustive. I could not find any agenda other than a search for truth. This is a ‘must read’ on two fronts: those who want straight talk about the Sally Hemings’ issue and those who are genuinely interested in Thomas Jefferson. There is great context developed in this well-presented and referenced material. It is fair and balanced in a true sense. Too, it is enjoyable for an honest searcher.

2 people found this helpful

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  • LK
  • 08-08-22

Methodical & Thorough

This is the first audio book of dozens that I wish I’d read as text, and not listened to. Since Gordon-Reed methodically lays out her case as if speaking to a jury, I found myself needing to go back and listen to certain parts again. And those Appendices! Definitely reading material, especially as a reference one might return to. The book can be dense and tedious at times, but to hear the case laid out by a Black woman gives this a unique and necessary perspective, making the relationship of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings seem likely. So I learned a lot, and am grateful for this. I could have endured less of frequently repeated assertions, but overall, this was a worthwhile and educational experience.