As a history teacher at Montgomery College, I read with interest the letter doubting that Thomas Jefferson fathered children with his slave Sally Hemings [“A dissent on the matters of Presidents Jefferson and Cleveland,” Free for All, Nov. 26].
Richard E. Dixon, representing the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society, wrote that “no contemporary witness records so much as a glance” between the two. Certainly there may have been motivation for a glance, since Sally Hemings and Jefferson’s beloved, late wife were probably half sisters.
Every semester I offer my undergraduates the opportunity to choose this topic to compose an essay. My students have found other evidence and facts in their research: The Hemings family at the time acknowledged the biological connection with Jefferson, and Jefferson never firmly denied it. Several observers, including one of Jefferson’s grandchildren, remarked on the close resemblance between Jefferson and a house slave who accompanied Jefferson. Of all the slaves in his household, Jefferson set free the Hemingses only.