Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society

Heritage Society Establishes Blue Ribbon Commission to Examine Jefferson-Hemings Issue

The Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society announces the formation of The Scholars Commission on the Jefferson-Hemings Issue. 


Jefferson foundation Formed

Newspaper account of the establishment of the Jefferson Foundation


5/2000 Formation of the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society

The alleged affair between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings began as gossip and was published in 1802 by James Callender during Jefferson’s first term as president. In common with the licentious practices in the press of those times, the allegations were widely spread, solely for political purposes, even though these accusations had no foundation in fact. They were promoted back then by Jefferson’s enemies, and have been supported more recently by handed-down gossip, distorted scientific conclusions, and false sound-bites, then offered to the public as “revisionist history.” Historical revisionism is perfectly legitimate when it rests on a careful reassessment of the past. But what is presented as revision in this case is based on a misleading headline in the journal Nature, scientific evidence that was interpreted unscientifically, and conclusions in the media that have no basis in the actual scientific facts. 

In early May 2000, a group of concerned businessmen, historians, genealogists, scientists, and patriots formed a corporation called The Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society, Inc., to undertake an independent and objective review of all the facts and circumstances surrounding the possible paternity of Sally Hemings’ children by Thomas Jefferson. This organization was formed as a response by a cross section of citizens to efforts by many historical revisionists to portray Thomas Jefferson as a hypocrite, a liar, and a fraud. In the forefront of this historical revisionist movement is the organization that owns Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation (TJMF). A report issued by the TJMF in January 2000 suggested that Thomas Jefferson fathered at least one, and probably all six, of the children of his slave Sally Hemings.

The founders of The Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society believe that the TJMF report is biased—the product of shallow and shoddy scholarship, a selective exclusion of exculpatory evidence, and the exercise of poor judgment on the weight to be given to historical sources, genealogical and scientific evidence, and the legal requirements of paternity, all done in order to achieve an apparently desired conclusion. Admirers of Jefferson had expected a whole lot more from this esteemed body, whose original mission was to perpetuate the reputation of Thomas Jefferson by focusing on his life and accomplishments. 

The Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society was formed, therefore, for the purpose of research and scholarship, and to conduct an independent and objective review of the TJMF report and of all the facts and circumstances surrounding the possible paternity of Sally Hemings’ children by Thomas Jefferson. The Heritage Society has begun several new research projects on various aspects of this issue which it intends to make available to interested scholars and the general public. This effort, we feel, is of vital importance to the legacy of Thomas Jefferson and to his place in American thought and political philosophy.

"The Jefferson–Hemings Myth: An American Travesty", Foreword, John H. Works Jr., edited by Eyler Robert Coates, Sr. (Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society, 2001) p. 9