Jefferson’s story — now fully told
We are hopeful that the ongoing reimagining of the Alamo serves the purpose of separating history and myth, but note another reimagining happening way over in Virginia that already serves that purpose. And just in time for July Fourth.
According to a recent article in the New York Times, Monticello, home to Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, will no longer ignore history when it comes to telling his story. It will include Sally Hemings’ story to round out the historical narrative about one of our iconic founders.
Hemings, of course, was Jefferson’s slave. But, the record confirms, he fathered at least one of her children and likely all of them. This confirmation came late, courtesy of DNA testing of descendants, including African-Americans who claim lineage with Hemings.
This is an inclusion that does not come without controversy and without some doubt about historical detail.
For instance, did Hemings and Jefferson have a romantic relationship? Can there even be such a thing when the relationship is undoubtedly that of slave and master? Can it be anything other than rape?
Monticello reportedly will take care in telling the story and acknowledge what it doesn’t know.
And, still, this is a victory for history.
There will be some who will view this as a tarnishing of Jefferson. We don’t see it that way. We see it simply as acknowledgment that our founding was not wart-free. Some actions by some founders didn’t fully live up to the Declaration of Independence that Jefferson is credited with writing. This is true even though these founders were visionary enough to craft ideals that serve liberty and equality to this day.