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tv   Catherine Kerrison Jeffersons Daughters  CSPAN  February 11, 2018 1:46pm-2:46pm EST

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you have been watching both tvs coverage of the book party for james o'keefe. the national press club in washington dc. if you'd like to watch online you can go to type in james o'keefe and book. >> you're watching booktv on c-span2. with type nonfiction books and authors every weekend. booktv, television for serious readers. >> good afternoon and welcome to the theater here at the national archives. it is a pleasure to welcome you here. those of you that are here in the theater, and those of you joining us our youtube station. welcome to our c-span audience.
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before we get to today's program i will know about you other progress we february 16 at noon professor chris myers -- will be here to talk about their book, history of race and democracy in the nations capital. it is a tumultuous four century story of race and democracy in washington dc. a city that has often served as national datagram for contentious issues. including slavery, segregation, civil rights and the drug war. after two year absence from public view abraham lincoln is original emancipation proclamation will be on display in the gallery during the presidents' day weekend. do not miss this rare opportunity to see the original emancipation proclamation. the document will be made available for viewing on october 17, 18 and 19 between the hours of 10 and 530 each day. to learn more about these in
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our programs and exhibits consult our calendar of events online there is a table outside where you can sign up to receive email updates. another way to get involved in the national archives is to become a member of the national archives foundation. the foundation supports all of our education and outreach activities and there are applications for membership in the lobby also. today's program takes a close look at thomas jefferson three daughters. martha and maria and harriet hemmings. the life of thomas jefferson through their eyes. the author catherine kerrison, researched their lives and primary sources including court cases and records of the district courts of the united states and most of the records of government of the district of columbia here and the national archives. previous accounts about the
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family authors such as gordon reed, mythic is that jefferson fathered children of sally hemings for the first time a deficit is three daughters mary beth with new york times book review rights, the beautifully written book takes the relationships as a given. and another road like all great histories do, deficits daughters brings it. vividly to life. the credit to catherine kerrison passion and writing. -- teaches courses on colonial and revolutionary american and women's and gender history. she has a phd in american history from the college of william and mary. she authored several articles and two books and presented homework and conferences in the united states and abroad. in the course of her research,
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she has fellowships from organizations such as the national endowment for the humanities. the colonial williamsburg foundation.and the virginia historical society. her first book claiming the pen and intellectual life of early american settlers won an award in 2007. please welcome catherine kerrison. [applause] >> good afternoon and thank you so much for being here. i cannot tell you what a pleasure it is for me and how exciting it is for me to be back in washington where i have done so much of my research to be in this building where i have spent weeks working on
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this project. so, it is wonderful to be here and thank you for coming. i thought what i would do today is to present first, a very brief overview of the book and then what i will do is kind of zero in on two of the stories that i think really bring out the themes of the books and why i think the stories matter for today. thomas jefferson had three daughters. mark there and maria by his wife and harriet, by his slave, sally hemings. in "jefferson's daughters" i recount the journey of these very different women and how they had a struggle to define
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themselves with the possibilities and limitations of the american revolution. although all three women share the same father, the commonalities and -- martha and maria lived in paris. at that time, paris was a hothouse of intellectual sermons they celebrated the young martha met him even socialize with. once they return home however, the sisters found their options limited by the laws and customs in the newly independent republic that their father had helped to establish. 12 years after their return from france, their half-sister, harriet hemings was born.
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and her life would follow a different path. she will corrupt and slippery. but leave monticello at age 21 with the assistance of jefferson himself. and begin a new life free from bondage. she had a question for philadelphia with $50 in her pocket. many jefferson himself had provided. and decidedly for uncertain prospects. their lives provide i think, a unique vantage point from which to examine the complicated legacy of the american revolution itself. i wrote this book to show how they are richly interwoven stories and their own individual struggles to shake -- shape their own destiny shed new light on the challenges we still face in this nation today. for the ongoing movement towards human rights. as well as the light it sheds
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on the personal and political legacy of one of our most controversial founding fathers. today i thought i will open up the stories of martha, the oldest and harriet, the youngest. so martha, born in 1772, was 10 years old when her mother died. she was a witness to jeffersons agonized grief and his companion when he traveled to france in 1784. the young martha learned early her place in life. complete devotion to her father. she was barely 12 years old when her father placed her in this elite convent school. this is one of you from the courtyard. and just a partial view. this entire building is the
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length of two football fields. it gives you an idea of the size. this is again, from the inner courtyard. and martha, the day that her father dropped her off at the school, they would have entered through doors that are concealed behind this bush but the mother superiors offices for up here and there is a gorgeous staircase that takes you from up here to the mother superiors office. this is from the street view. not quite as impressive but this is the chapel, the roman catholic chapel that in which martha would attend services as well. so, it was one of the most fashionable schools in paris and certainly by miles, the
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most expensive. there, in an all-female community, headed by an aristocratic -- martha would have the experience of a lifetime. after a bit of a rocky start, she quickly learned clenched, dove into her studies into gossip with friends, the chaperone pleasures of life in paris at the height of the women's influenced and the regime. remember, they arrived in paris in august 1784. they leave in september 1789. two months after the crowd besieges and they stormed the gate of the bastille. gossip is about love and marriage and with a classmate who quote - mr. you told me
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today of her and the boys, one for confidants confessed, really shocked me. deep thoughts and small preoccupied her. she desperately wished the slavery would cease. she implored her father for an advance on her allowance. her lively intelligence and tenacity one her many friends. the pocket of the young girl that they painted with their vivid memories, bounding down the stairs four steps at a time in her coffee stained apron, shopping for parisian factions reporting on the shifting alliances of the girls and students moved in and out of the convent school. receiving a salute from the -- as he entered paris to quell revolutionary unrest. all of these are really a
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contrast with sort of the stately portrait of the matron. this portrait was done in philadelphia actually about a yearand and a half before she died . years later, she would tell the children stories of these days and remarked repeatedly that they were the happiest yearsof her life . it was an experience i am convinced, that shaped her vision of female education for her own daughters. a vision that deviated remarkably from that which her father had visited upon her. before her departure for france, martha jefferson as well as the traditional curriculum for elite girls in 18th-century america. music, dancing, friends, a bit of reading and writing. this thomas jefferson once
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contended to a correspondent would be sufficient preparation for protecting her family fortunes if she was so unhappy as in his words, to marry a blockhead. [laughter] .... >> a print of the ballet royale from 1784, so named because one of the king's relatives had built this palace finding that he couldn't afford to live in it, then enclosed it around a gorgeous park, still one of the most beautiful places in paris. and then within all these arcades were shops and
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restaurants. this is the place to go in paris to see and be seen particularly on a sunday. she made friends with the daughters of the french aristocracy and of english diplomats. after a time in her own bearing and posture, she was indistinguishable from the nobility. when her sponsor -- because, of course, you need a reference to get in -- not recognizing her on the playground one day, who she was, she replied, oh, but truly she has a very distinguished air. one of her english friends even called her your ladyship. so, clearly, this young girl from virginia had come a long way after five years of french convent schooling. and that's probably why jefferson whisked her home before she could be swept off her feet by a young french
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aristocrat. she was 17 when they returned to monticello in december of 1789. two months later she was married to a third cousin, thomas randolph. after her glory years in paris, she tried to make the most of the isolation of life as a virginia planter's wife. over the course of 28 years, she bore 11 surviving children. at jefferson's retirement in 1809, she moved back to monticello to live with him and devoting herself to his comfort, she identified with his intellectual life, with the pursuit of the life of the mind. and she devoted herself to educating her children and particularly her daughters to do the same. so how might female education be reenvisioned in the early
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republic, particularly when one has enjoyed the advantages of the best all-female academy in paris, indeed, in all of france? and when one is the daughter of one of the chief architects of the american republic. it was going to be a challenge as the very architecture of monticello suggests. so this photo i'm sure many of you have been to monticello. this is taken from jefferson's library looking through another room and then into his cabinet, into his study. jefferson became very enamored of the idea of apartments when he was in europe. so compare this three-room apartment devoted to the mind of the sage of monticello with this room that's not quite 15 feet
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square where his daughter managed the household, gave directions to slaves and taught her own 11 churn. but it's the -- children. but it's the letters of her daughters that gives the answer to that question about female education and refused to be bound by the gendered limitations. in their letters we can see both martha's lofty treatments to give her daughters -- dreams to give her daughters the finest education in america; that is, to teach them that women too were rational beings and who could strive for the life of the mind. but against those lofty dreams, of course, were the earthly realities of their lives as women. and this is really clear in their laments about the waste of time spent carrying the keys, in
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their words. that is, when it was their turn to manage the monthly housekeeping chores. so martha's daughter, virginia, could finally find time to write to her sister, ellen, because she had, quote, at length given up the keys after one of the most troublesome months of housekeeping i ever had. mary complained of all she couldn't do because she carried the keys. cornelia, the most artistic of martha's daughters, bemoaned her, quote, books lined covered with unmolested dust, my drawing boxes locked and never opened while it was her turn to carry the keys. we see both dreams and reality in virginia's search for a quiet place to read at monticello which, of course, during jefferson's retirement became a magnet for all manner of visitors, invited and otherwise. so virginia is seeking out a
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place where those visitors won't find her. so she climbs up to the dome room. when you open that door, there's a 3-foot drop into this attic spacement -- space. so she goes about converting this attic space that she shared with wasps to a room of her own. finished with a sofa, minus any cushions, a couple of castoff chairs and go small tables, it was for her a fairy palace. this is her fairy palace. which monticello has since furnished with some furnishings according to virginia's description to try to imagine what she might have done with it. but it was her fairy palace that she didn't intend to yield to
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anything except, perhaps, the formidable rats that she occasionally sighted in other attic spaces in the house. martha's influence over her daughters' curriculum is particularly apparent in their study of latin. although jefferson had once remarked that the greatest gift his father had given him was a classical education, he had never considered that for his own children. martha had learned french, spanish and italian instead, but she wouldn't deprive her girls of latin just because they were not male. and again, it's through her daughters' letters that we can see this. when she was 23, ellen recalled her visits to her grandfather's retreat of poplar forest, and here she ambled from room to room in the house savoring memories of when she'd been able to spend seven to eight uninterrupted hours on her
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latin. having mastered it well enough to read virgil in the original, ellen swore i will never again tolerate a translation. [laughter] the difference between the original and john dryden's translation she liked to, quote, between a glass of rich, old, high-flavored wine and the same wine thrown into a quart of duck water. indeed, trips to poplar forest -- and i have to sort of contrast. again, jefferson does the same thing at poplar forest that he does at monticello, which is to say so there's this room here is south-facing and gets gorgeous sunlight. the girls shared a bedroom on the east-facing side. there we go. so here's jefferson's sunny reading room. [laughter] the trips to poplar forest were
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the closest that martha's daughters would come to realize what author virginia woolf would dream of in 1929, a room of one's own. a place into which the world, particularly with its demands on women, could not intrude, a place devoted only to the intellectual life. so certainly, martha had attempted to widen considerably the boundaries of female education with her gift of last aren, and jefferson's -- latin, and jefferson's perfect confidence in her ability to educate her girls in the privacy of his own home was certainly justified by the admiration and praise of all of the visitors to monticello. but lacking any public expression of her many gifts, what more could martha jefferson randolph -- what mark could she hope to leave on the world?
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very little. her daughter ellen feared tearfully just three years after martha had died in 1836. she has passed away, and the world has not known her, she lamented. she has left no memorial, but in the recollection of her friends and the hearts of her children. a few short years and perhaps all record, all remembrance of her name, her qualities will be gone. for all that martha jefferson randolph was, for all her learning, all that she cult sainted within herself -- cultivated within herself and her daughters, she was invisible to the world. her brilliance confined to that 15-foot-square sitting room that her father had designed. with jefferson's death, martha was left destitute. her education, brilliant mind and manners and her famous connection all insufficient
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defenses against the vagaries of life. her story serves as a cautionary tale today, i think, of the benefits and perils for women of relying on men, even wealthy, well-ed -- well-intentioned men of reputation for their life's meaning and livelihood. ultimately, martha could not and did not reject her father or the role into which she was born. harriet hemings, who was born in 1801, did. and she reinvented herself on the best terms that she could, as a free-born white woman. and her story opened up an entirely different avenue of investigation and narrative. and i just want to show you this much simplified family tree.
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here's john wales at the top of it. so he marries wife number one is martha epps, they have a daughter, martha. martha dies. as an adult, martha marries thomas jefferson and has martha and mary, later called mariah. after john wales' third wife died, he begins a relationship with his slave, elizabeth hemings, who, in fact, had been brought to his household by wife number one, martha epps. they have six children together, the youngest of whom was sally hemings born in 1773, the year actually that john wayle, s died. so two things worth noticing here. first of all, that jefferson's wife and sally hemings had the same father, john wayles.
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the other thing to note is that jefferson's daughter martha and sally hemings born within roughly a year of each other, and so they will be going through their child-bearing years together at monticello. okay. so we don't know exactly when harriet hemings left monticello. certainly, by the end of may 1822 when she turned 21 years old. but we do know it caused quite a stir in the little town of charlottesville. there was a great deal of talk about it, jefferson's overseer later remembered. people said he freed her because she was his own daughter. from courthouse square where harriet had bordered the stage from washington, you can easily see jefferson's home atop his little mountain. there on the square over there
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whiskeys or peach brandies, the townspeople had freely discussed among themselves and with snoop ing strangers jefferson's relations with sally hemings and the children who looked so much like him. now, jaws agame, they animatedly sought to explain why jefferson would free harriet hemings. everyone knew, as jefferson himself had once said that, quote, a slave woman who brings a child every two years is more profitable than the best man on the farm. that would certainly explain why jefferson had never done such a thing before or why he never did again. harriet's story might well have ended there had it not been for her younger brother madison who told his family's story to an ohio newspaper in 1873. so just, just over 50 years
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after harriet left monticello. somewhere along that road north to washington harriet discarded her enslaved identity for that of a free-born white woman. she was -- and if you sort of do the rough math, i'm an historian, i don't do math, but she was seven-eighths white. it was a declaration of independence from her origins of such breathtaking scope as to rival that of her father's. and like his, hers too was successful. this was her likely arrival point. jesse, yes, jesse brown's famous hotel on pennsylvania avenue. it boasted the largest assembly room in the city, a fine restaurant, and it was a bustling depot stop. madison reported that harriet,
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quote, married a white man in good standing in washington city and raised a family of children. she likely lived until at least 1863, for in 1873 when madison was telling the family story, he said that he had not heard from her in about ten years. but during all those years, he said, he was not aware that her identity as harriet hemings of monticello has ever been discovered. nor to my knowledge had anyone really gone looking, so i decided to take the plunge. it became clear to me immediately that she dropped the hemings name, but knowing that as annette gordon-reed once said the hemings had a positive mania for naming children after family members, i decided to look first at birth records to see if i
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could find a mother of sons who bore the names beverly, madison or eston, which is to say the distinctive names of harriet's brothers. they would stand out in the masses of william and john and thomas. so it turns out, and many of you might know this, but district of columbia didn't begin to keep birth records until 1874. now, of course, again -- as i'm sure many of you know -- the federal census doesn't begin to list names of every person in the household until 1850. but the district did keep marriage records gunning in 18 -- beginning in 1811. because there were no hemingses in the marriage registers, i went through them and listed all the harriets who married between late 1821 and 1830.
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by that point harriet would have been 29 and, i think, married. that gave me a list of 59 harriets, and better still, 59 husbands. better because, of course, men lead finish leave much plaintiff or an his -- much more of an historic imprint in the records than women do. so having a list of 118 names i thought, okay, i've got something to work with. still in search, of course, of the children's names, no district records, so i'm thinking, well, i go to church records. but, of course, then i have to identify which churches were around in d.c. in the 1820 and '30s, and then, of course, construct a genealogy of those churches because many either merged with other congregations or moved, changed locations or faded away altogether. so any of you who have done your own family histories, i'm sure, have encountered these kinds of
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challenges. so i read the 1850 and 1860 censuses, again looking for those distinctive names. i looked through city directories. here's a sample page from the first published happily enough in 1822, the year that harriet would have arrived. notice here james monroe, president of the united states, residing at the president's house. [laughter] not to be confused with james monroe who was an engineer at dyers steam mill. but the city directory helped me place these men on the landscape, where mt. city they lived and worked -- where in the city they lived and worked, identifying their trade, getting some kind of idea of their economic standing. remember madison said his sister married a man of good standing in washington city.
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i, in doing that, i eliminated with confidence perhaps a third of the harriets on my list, and there were a few who had me going for a while. for a time i was chasing after harriet walker who married a man named john newton in 1825. her last name would be perfect considering that she had walked from monticello according to ellen. i should also say i had been keeping an eye out for beverly whose first name was william and who did exactly what harriet did which is to say leave monticello, go to washington as a free-born white person. he married a white woman from maryland, and they had a daughter, is and both harriet and beverly have disappeared from that historical record. but in, with the case of harriet walker, i managed through church records to establish that harriet walker and william b.
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walker were, in fact, brother and sister. so i really thought i was on to something until the census record revealed that john newton was a free man of color and, obvious, madison had been quite emphatic that his sister married a white man. i wondered if she was harriet freeh, another suggested last name, but i found her baptismal records in the rock creek church records. she certainly wasn't the harriet whose husband posted a notice in the local papers that he would not be responsible for any debts incurred by his runaway wife. [laughter] the one who had me going the longest, and i'm still going to keep up this search -- [laughter] was the harriet who married a scottish immigrant carpenter who had ten children of whom she buried four and whose husband was so successful that when he
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died, she could afford to hire 30 carriages for his funeral procession. clearly a man of good standing. if i cannot say definitive hi that i've found her, i've certainly learned a good deal about her times, her city and the varieties of people who lived there that help me understand better the woman she must have been and her choice to path. i've seen slaves chained together and paraded down pennsylvania avenue, the race riot that destroyed prosperous black businesses in 1835, the long wait for the abolition of slavery in the nation's capital that does not come until april of 1862. and the long, hard slog of free blacks throughout the 19th century to prove themselves as fully deserving of the rights of
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citizenship as whites. in other words, seeing the city through harriet 's eyes i watched with her fate she escaped by passing. this shows the capitol building as it would have appeared in 1822 before the first dome. when harriet arrived. and you can see these poplars lining pennsylvania avenue were planted by her father. and here is post-1824 view of the capitol. so i also met the people who built the city, stopped a growing bureaucracy and served an expanding group of government officials, clerks and many transients. i saw the daily labor of women to sustain their families with
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their gardening, marketing, cooking and sewing. women who died in childbirth and women who rose from child bed only to bury children who died before they really had had a chance to live. and in spite of everything with her intelligence and her grit and determination, harriet hemings blended right in. but, of course, this isn't a story of unadulterated triumph. we need to think long and hard about what it means to live one's life this way. unlike the family of her half-sister martha who is voluminous letters map out lives devoted to one another and, of course, to jefferson's legacy, harriet lived out her life in the oblivion of exile. geographically severed from her mother and her two younger brothers, silenced by the weight of institutionalized slavery,
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vanished into white society, harriet suffered the appalling rapture of her birth family. we don't know when her correspondence with madison began, we don't know what she knew about her family's lives after jeffon died. we -- jefferson died. we don't know when or how she even learned of her mother's death nine years after her fathered had died. slaves did not possess lineage, one historian has pointed out. the rope of -- [inaudible] tethered you to an owner rather than a father and made you offspring rather than an heir. well, jefferson may have thought of harriet as his offspring, but as the daughter of sally hemmings and the granddaughter of the family matriarch, elizabeth hemings, harriet was heir of the proud hemings line.
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but passing forced her to bury that lineage. it was the price she had to pay to claim the rights accorded only to whites in america. legal scholar cheryl harris has told the story of her grandmother who passed as white to obtain a job at a chicago department store during the great depression of the 1930s. harris watched the pain flit across her grandmother's face when she told the stories of those days, remembering the monumental effort of self-effacement that they required. quote, she was transgressing boundaries, crossing borders, harris now understands. no longer immediately identifiable, because her grandmother had moved from mississippi, her grandmother, quote: could thus enter the white world, albeit on a false
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passport. not merely passing, but trespassing. unquote. surely ecking coeing the lesson that echoing the lesson that hemings had learned earlier, harriet's grandmother -- sorry, harris' grandmother knew that, quote, accepting the risk of self-annihilation, that is, of her back identity, was the only way to survive, unquote. passing is still about survival. despite the numerical minority, black americans both male and female are incarcerated in epic proportions compared to whites. black parents have to teach their children lessons about how to survive beyond their front door, particularly in dealing with police, that white parents do not. the long devaluation of black lives since the 17th century has
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created what one commentator called a white way of seeing that persists even in spite of video evidence to the contrary. quote, the fleeing figure is coming this way. the nearly-strangled person is about to unleash force. the man on the ground will suddenly spring to life and threaten the life of the one who, therefore, takes his life, unquote. the lesson we can take away from all of this is that americans are not color-blind. quite the contrary, the meaning of color remains so deeply significant that whites insist on the right to know who carries the drop of african blood that renders a person black. and they protest when it's not visible as though blacks have trespassed onto the grounds of white privilege from which blacks are supposed to
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understand they are barred. and this was exactly the problem with harriet hemings. in her birth into slavery and its long history of oppression, she was black. but anyone who looked at her would have judged her white. she was neither legally free until 1865 because jefferson never gave her formal freedom papers, but she wasn't enslaved because she lived as a free person. she doesn't fit neatly into any of these categories that seem to have had such clarity of meaning to demarcate people's lives in the american experience. and as far as her randolph cousins were concerned, harriet hemings was a trespasser too. properly barred from the privilege of their common descent from thomas jefferson of which, of course, the randolphs were so very proud.
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trespass remains a sore point between recognized jefferson descendants who claim the right of burial in the monticello graveyard and any hemings descendants who seek access to that graveyard. in 2002 the monticello association roundly voted town a proposal to admit hemings' descendants to the graveyard. a dozen years later when jefferson descendant tess taylor -- a white woman -- arranged to meet slave descendant gerald white at monticello, they walked to the graveyard together. i i unlocked the gate, taylor recounted simply. apparently unconscious of the fullness of that moment. sitting atop two centuries of family history, the white person in possession of the key while the other remains locked out. but what with we need to see --
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what we need to see and that i hope my book shows is that the legal and social barriers that have separated us by race and gender are as much the work of human hands as the fence that surrounds that monticello graveyard. that i didn't find harriet hemings -- spoiler alert -- [laughter] only proves the point that we are all connected. we need to acknowledge the utter artificiality of these systems that separate us so that we can begin the collective effort to dismantle them and embrace our common humanity. and as we confront a revived movement to redefine citizenship as white and christian only -- this from charlottesville last year -- and as black americans today still strive to convince white americans that black lives matter, i think this is as
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opportune a time as any to think about harriet hemings' story. thank you for your attention. [applause] so i understand many of you are veterans of this wonderful lunch series, so you know questions, there are microphones on the stairs and happy to take questions, comments. yes. >> thank you for your talk. >> thank you. >> i have two, two questions. first, i know you didn't find harriet hemings -- >> right. >> -- but can you speculate as to whether her husband would have known of her slavery origins and of her parentage? >> right. >> and also can you talk a little bit about martha's years as first lady? >> okay. all right.
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so with respect to would harriet's immediate family have known, and you're right to use the word speculation because that's what i would have to do. and that was constantly a question i was asking myself as i'm trying to cop -- conjure up myself various scenarios which will then give me ideas of ways to look for her. no one has claimed descent from either beverly or harriet. and that leads me to believe that at the very least, if her husband knew and if her children knew, that that information stopped with them. the reason that the scot you should immigrant -- scottish
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immigrant interested me so much was because, a, as a scottish immigrant, he had no investment in slavery, the slave system. the census record showed that he never owned slaves. he was a carpenter, harriet's, all her brothers were trained as carpenters at monticello. this scottish immigrant was a carpenter so i thought, oh, that's how they met. so i really have no way of knowing. what is interesting is that a hemings descendant -- not from sally, but another -- a hemings descendant as late as world war ii here in washington said that the family of the daughter of thomas jefferson and sally hemings still live in washington
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and are doing very well. so clearly, in free black washington there was knowledge of who she married. madison made a point in telling his story to say i could name her husband, but i will not. 1873, as we all know, the civil war didn't change ideas about race. so he was, he wasn't going to reveal her secret. but thinking -- that's a really important question because, again, it gets to this point of the pain of passing. and did she keep this secret to herself, did she confide it to her husband who, if he was the scottish immigrant, didn't care? so i really don't know.
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but the utter silence that accompanies this suggests that the secret was held early on rather than later on the white side of the family. with respect to martha jefferson randolph as first lady, i know -- i'm not particularly comfortable with that designation because martha visited her father twice when he was president and was certainly a very con congenial, intelliget conversationalist and certainly an adornment to her father's dinner table when he had, when he had visitors. but neither she nor mariah who accompanied her on one of those trips were really interested in sort of the hostessing duties.
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they were there because jefferson wanted them there. i mean, it was a pretty grueling three-day trip, and martha was pregnant for one of those. her own son, james madison, was born at the white house. so i would say it's -- the hostessing duties of a first lady and more the love of a daughter who wanted the please her father. thank you. yes, hello. >> hello, catherine. how are you? >> well, thank you. >> wonderful presentation. i really appreciate it. i don't have so much a question as i do a comment. you mentioned tess taylor finish. >> yes. >> the woman who was with tess taylor. i'm the woman who was with tess taylor, and i work at monticello now. i wasn't so much longing to get into that grave site as i was longing to find my family's
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history. >> right. >> and i'd like to say on behalf of myself and on behalf of monticello that we are fully committed to telling the complete story of all the people who lived there. not just martha's children -- who was my ancestors as well, four times great grandmother, not just of thomas jefferson is, but of the 607 people, men, women and children, that thomas jefferson -- [inaudible] we would love to find harriet. [laughter] >> wouldn't we all. >> so, please, don't give up your search. but she wasn't the only one. >> right. >> and it's important that we all acknowledge that and recognize that. every individual at monticello mattered. everyone. so please always remember that. >> yes. >>ing and thank you for mentioning me. [laughter] [applause]
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>> thank you very much. as a genealogy researcher myself -- >> i'm sorry, where -- >> i'm right here. >> oh, thank you. [laughter] >> i'm a researcher myself. i think your presentation is absolutely outstanding. your book is interesting. however, i have two comments. pardon my voice. one is i prefer personally the use of the word enslaved as opposed to slaves -- >> yes. >> because slaves aren't born. >> right. >> the second comment i'd like to make is the mixture of race and passing is also an insult because passing means that you did something because you wanted
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to show yourself as something else. i think the idea, coming from a family of a lot of mixture, i think the idea is survival as well as freedom. so people -- who wants to be an enslaved person when we were treated so very poorly? so i think the choice was, the guilt was that you had to do it, choice was that you did it for survival. >> right. >> so, but i think your book is bringing out a lot of very, very interesting facts about the jeffersons, and that's all i have to say. >> well, thank you. so i agree entirely, and i -- with your point about talking about enslaved persons and using enslaved as an adjective.
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and on passing as you know is a or very fraught topic, and i would absolutely recommend a terrific book bilalson hobbs -- by allyson hobbs who did a presentation here called the chosen exile in which she has -- [inaudible] passing. and i think during the history of slavery for people who passed, that was that there was, it was not pain-free as i was sort of trying to get us to think about, but it was a way of dealing with an atrocious, oppressive system that -- and i guess what i was trying to do in my book and even a little bit in my talk today was just to kind
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of problematize the very words that we're using, white and black. i mean, they have no biological meaning. there is no basis for race in science, right? but they carry enormous political, social, economic, legal weight, right? so there's a way in my book, and is i'm glad you brought this out, in which i'm trying to let people see me stumble over these terms because none of them really work, right? and to see the artificiality of the meanings that they do continue to bear. so that's what i'm trying to do. and even if it gets people to think about this and if they wind up as befuddled, you know, well, that -- to me, that's
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progress, right? if people start questioning these categories and then, okay, well, then maybe if these terms don't have any basis in biology or truth or reality, then maybe we need to start undoing these different ways in which we've institutionalized them. so thank you. yes. do we have time for one more? okay, good. thank you. >> hi. i'm not going to ask a question, i'm just going to make a comment. >> uh-huh. >> as a south african-born american. hearing about passing and hearing about your book and the experience that it appears that harriet went through as well as the other slaves in this country -- >> right. >> -- it brought to mind what i experienced growing up in johannesburg.
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e actually hadn't thought about passing for a very long time because a dear friend of mine who has since passed away passed. and so i know a little bit about what it meant to pass as white in such, in such a kind of difficult experience. >> right. right. and i think in the, in the american experience in the 20th century was when passing becomes more problematic than it was during the period of slavery which is to say the ways in which -- and you had mentioned guilt, right? so the ways in which it might have been perceived as sort of a betrayal of working for the
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cause of equality for people of color in the united states. but as a last commenter mentioned, i think what we need -- especially white people -- rial really need to be conscious of the ways in which these oppressions, these things that we don't even think about are institutionalized, right? and so whether that was in south africa or here. i'm from australia originally. we have, as you well know, our own problems with the ways in which english settlers treated and their descendants continue to treat the indigenous population. so thank you very much for that. thank you. [applause] thank you for being here today. [applause]
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thank you. >> [inaudible] >> here's a look at some of the upcoming book fairs and festivals happening around the country. on february 17th, we head to georgia for the savannah book festival which will be live on booktv. and then on march 10th and 11th, we'll be live from the university of arizona for the tucson festival of books featuring msnbc's -- [inaudible] david cajon son and -- kay johnson and more. and later in march it's the virginia festival of the book in charlottesville and the national black writers conference in brooklyn, new york. for more information about upcoming book fairs and festivals and to watch previous coverage, click the book fathers tab


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