Learning Exercise

Thomas Jefferson, Sally Hemings, and DNA

The public career of the United States' third President is well documented. However, his personal life has come under greater public scrutiny. This web site explores the possibility that Thomas Jefferson fathered slave children.
Course: U.S. History

Exploring "Thomas Jefferson, his slave and mistress Sally Hemings, their descendants, and the mysterious power of race,"... see more


When the web site comes on screen, Click View the Jefferson-Hemings Story.
There are four icons and each one is a seven minute video segment. After
viewing the video go back to the home page. Click Is It True? Answer Question
1. Describe the results of DNA and Thomas Jefferson published in the journal

Click DNA Evidence. Answer Questions 2-5.
2. What does the 2000 Monticello Report say?
3. What has Dr. Foster concluded?
4. What has historian Joseph Ellis said on the issue of the paternity of Sally
Hemings' children?
5. What has been the traditiional view about the Jefferson-Hemings

Click Dissenting Views. Answer Questions 6-8.
6. What does the Monticello Minority Report say?
7. What has historian Herbert Barger said on this paternity issue?
8. Who was Thomas Woodson and how do the Woodsons enter the Jefferson-Hemings

Click Jefferson-Hemings in Context. Answer Questions 9-11.
9. How prevalent was interracial sex in Virginia?
10. Who was James Callendar and how did he complicate President Jefferson's
1 1. Did Jefferson's legitimate descendants lie about the Hemings affair?

Go back to the Home Page. Click The Jefferson Engima. Answer Questions 12-15.
12. Why did historian Joseph Ellis change his mind about a Jefferson-Hemings
13. What does Dr. Jack Rakove say on this issue?
14. What are the views of Professor Annette Gordon-Reed?
15. What did the Jefferson-Hemings conference of 1999 conclude?

Click Jefferson Legacies. Answer Question 16.
16. How does the alleged Jefferson-Hemings affair affect Jefferson's legacy?

Click Jefferson's Life and Work. Answer Questions 17-19.
17. Visit the Jefferson Library and name books Jefferson read.
18. Take a virtual tour of Monticello and decribe Jefferson's home.
19. What contributions did Jefferson make to the United States?

Go back to the Home Page. Click The Slaves' Story. Answer Questions 20-22.
20. Identify the four slavesfrom Monticello whose stories are told on this web
21. Describe slave life at Monticello.
22. How likely is it that a white southern family who once owned slaves, has
African-American relatives?

Go back to the Home Page. Click Mixed Race in America. Answer Questions 23-25.
23. What is the "one-drop rule?"
24. Why was white-black dating secret and hidden?
25. What does "passing for white" mean?

Go back to the Home Page. Click The Chronology. Answer Questions 26-27.
26. What are the important events and dates in the Jefferson-Hemings
27. What is the Jefferson "Y" chromosome?

Go back to the Home Page. Click Interviews. Answer Questions 28-32.
28. What does Joseph Ellis say about the Jefferson-Hemings Affair?
29. What does Annette Gordon-Reed say?
30. What does Lucia Cinder Stanton say?
31. What does Dr. Eugene Foster say?
32. What do you believe about the alleged Jefferson-Hemings affair?

Additional Information: None


Technical Notes

Basic computer skills


Knowledge about Thomas Jefferson and 18th and 19th attitudes about African slaves.


Americas: United States 1789-1865, African-America, Biography, Genealogy, Race/Ethnicity, Science/Medicine/Technology, Slavery, Social, Women.

Learning Objectives

To acquaint students with the use of modern science and technology to resolve history's unanswered questions.