by Samuel H. Sloan, 320 pp., published by Kiseido, $18.00

Thomas Jefferson had 187 slaves. We know that because he kept meticulous hand-written records, which we still have. On January 14, 1774, after he inherited slaves from first his mother and then his father-in-law, Thomas Jefferson wrote his inventory of 187 slaves. In his last inventory, taken 50 years later in 1824, Thomas Jefferson also had 187 slaves. Thomas Jefferson died on July 4, 1826 at the age of 83.
A page from Thomas Jefferson's Farm Book, which was hand written by Thomas Jefferson himself. Sally is listed as having three children. Harriet 1, Madison 5 and Eston 8. Harriet Hemings was born in 1801. Madison Hemings was born in 1805. Eston Hemings was born in 1808. Sally's eldest son was Beverley, was born in 1798 and because of his age had a separate listing in the Farm Book. An earlier child also named Harriet had died in infancy. Note that according to Thomas Jefferson's Farm Book, Sally never had a son by the name of Tom.

In October, 1802, while he was president, the story was published in the newspapers that Thomas Jefferson, whose wife had died in 1782, was keeping his wife's slave half-sister, Sally Hemings, as a concubine and was producing children from her. Jefferson, who lived for 44 years after the death of his wife and who never remarried, never denied the story, but he never admitted it either. Sally Hemings was at his bedside when he died. All five children of Sally Hemings were freed by Thomas Jefferson either before his death or in his will. Thomas Jefferson made provisions for Sally Hemings in his will. These were almost the only slaves which Thomas Jefferson ever freed.
Thomas Jefferson

What do the retired Chairman of the Board of DuPont Chemical Corporation, the first black assemblyman in the history of the State of California, one of the co-founders of the NAACP, the first black tenured faculty member of any college in America, the first black woman ever to graduate from Vassar College, and a judge appointed by President George Bush, all have in common? They are all direct descendants of the slave children of Thomas Jefferson. Many people have heard the story that President Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence and one of the founding fathers of the United States of America, produced children from his slaves. Is this story really true, and what happened to the children? Is former Governor Douglas Wilder of Virginia one of those descendants? How about President William Jefferson Clinton? These questions and many others are addressed in The Slave Children of Thomas Jefferson.

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