August 12, 2008 (REVISED August 14, 2008) "The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family" to be Discussed by Author at Library of Congress, Sept. 23

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Robert Saladini (202) 707-2692

The relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings has been a subject of speculation for centuries and even more so in the past decade, when DNA testing increased evidence of a sexual liaison. Author Annette Gordon-Reed, who received attention in 1997 for a book that carefully evaluated claims and counter-claims about the Jefferson-Hemings relationship, has written a new book about Sally Hemings – a slave in the Founding Father’s household – and her family. Gordon-Reed will discuss “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family” at the Library of Congress at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 23, in Room 119 of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. The book will be on sale and available for signing. The lecture, sponsored by the Library’s John W. Kluge Center and the Manuscript Division, is free and open to the public; tickets and reservations are not required. Gordon-Reed’s book chronicles the Hemings family from the mid-1700s, when an English sea captain fathered a child by an enslaved woman living near Williamsburg, Va., to the early 19th-century story of Sally Hemings. John Hope Franklin, the author of “From Slavery to Freedom” and the winner of the 2006 Kluge Prize for lifetime achievement in the study of humanity, said “This is not only a riveting history of a slave family on a grand scale, it is also a rarely-seen portrait of the family in the Big House, with a remarkable account of the relationship of white and black families. This work catapults Gordon-Reed into the very first rank of historians of slavery.” Gordon-Reed is a professor of law at New York Law School. Her 1997 book was titled “Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy.” She also co-authored “Vernon Can Read!: a Memoir” (2001) with Vernon Jordan, longtime civil rights leader and presidential confidante. In Gordon-Reed’s 2002 book “Race on Trial: Law and Justice in American History,” she edits 12 original essays that illustrate how race often determined the outcome of trials and how trials that confront issues of racism provide a unique lens on American cultural history. Through a generous endowment from John W. Kluge, the Library of Congress established the Kluge Center in 2000 to bring together the world’s best thinkers to stimulate and energize one another, to distill wisdom from the Library’s rich resources and to interact with policymakers in Washington. For further information on the Kluge Center, visit The Library’s Manuscript Division holds more than 61 million items, including the papers of 23 U.S. presidents, from George Washington to Calvin Coolidge. For more information about the collections and holdings of the Manuscript Division, visit


PR 08-136
ISSN 0731-3527