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Jefferson's Children: The Story of One…

Jefferson's Children: The Story of One American Family

by Shannon Lanier

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Grade 8 Up-Twenty-year-old Lanier, a descendant of Thomas Jefferson and his slave, Sally Hemings, delves into genealogy, oral history, photographs, and personal experience to trace the verifiable lineage of Jefferson and his wife, Martha Wayles, and the less certain lineage of Jefferson and Hemings. An American family emerges that embodies the diversity and the complexity of our multiracial society. The confirmed DNA connection between Jefferson and Sally's youngest son, Eston, inspired the family reunion of May 15, 1999. Despite the reluctance of the Monticello Association to acknowledge Jefferson's relationship with Hemings, the passion and pride of many black, white, and mixed descendants at the reunion prompted Lanier to explore his shared heritage. Traveling throughout the country, he visited Jefferson's descendants, recording their reminiscences and attitudes about their family tree. Through interviews with over 25 Jefferson and/or Hemings relatives, Lanier discovered that the "family's secret" had been kept by many families for generations. As social barriers relaxed in the last 30 years, Hemings family members have spoken up, articulating the oral history of their ancestry, researching their roots, and reflecting on the remarkable man and devoted servant from whom they originated. Through this collection of engaging contemporary testimonials and photographs of blacks and whites, young and old, Lanier sheds light not only on his own heritage but also on the understanding and pride that emerge when family history is explored.
Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC
1 vote | rwhowell | Jun 28, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375805974, Hardcover)

The controversy over the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and his African American slave Sally Hemings has raged for generations. Shannon Lanier, a 20-year-old descendant of Jefferson and Hemings, was inspired to delve deeper into the debate after attending the Monticello Association's yearly meeting in 1999. On the heels of the discovery through DNA evidence of a link between Jefferson and Hemings, excitement was running high at Jefferson's famous homestead. Lanier, who is black, encountered Jeffersons who embraced him, and those who wouldn't even shake his hand. He met Hemingses who looked as white as Jeffersons, Jeffersons who refused to acknowledge the scientific evidence, and Hemingses who were angry at having to prove their lineage. In this climate of stirred-up emotions and racial tensions, Lanier, along with photographer Jane Feldman, decided to write this book in hopes of unraveling some of the mystery, and giving members of one of America's largest, most well-known families a chance to speak. The result is a fascinating look at race relations, history--both oral and written, and family ties. The authors interview dozens of individuals who claim--or disclaim--shared ancestry. Many of those interviewed believe that, DNA testing or not, the connection between these families is a powerful symbol of America; to acknowledge the link would be a major step toward racial harmony. Eager, friendly, and astute, Lanier brings out the heartfelt thoughts and emotions of his extended family, while Feldman's photos capture the expressions of hope and joy on their faces. (Ages 11 and older) --Emilie Coulter

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:51 -0400)

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Presents the family history of the Caucasian and African American descendants of Thomas Jefferson.

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