Friday, May 17, 2019
Meanwhile, Back to the Other Jefferson
Let us leave behind us the upheaval in the wake of the escaping Jefferson Davis, erstwhile president of the Confederacy, and return to our consideration of another Jefferson. It's been a while since I last mentioned wanting to read about Thomas Jefferson. And in the month since I last brought up the subject, I've been steadily plowing through the book, Jefferson's Daughters.
My goal in reading the book—to spy between the lines and ferret out specific attitudes in the south in a bygone era—has been amply rewarded with a list of further reading. It's the daisy chain of footnotes leading me ever closer to—but not quite yet arrived at—my answer.
I am, however, still not finished with the book, despite starting my reading in earnest on a flight to Houston back in March. Yet in its pages, the author grapples with how the Jefferson-Hemings liaison came about, how Jefferson's family viewed the situation, how his neighbors saw it, and how the same practice was widespread, not only in Virginia, but throughout the south—calling out, specifically, the version practiced in Florida, the source of my own questioning.
While I'm not ready, yet, to say much on how that practice may have unfolded among my own ancestors, that it did happen, we already know; we have DNA results to inform us of that fact. On the one hand, the genetic genealogy angle leads to comparison of notes and matches and genealogies. But it's the other hand I want to examine much more closely. It's the psychology behind the situation that keeps me asking questions. For that, I'll likely have a lot more reading before I can see clearly what the case was, in the nearly invisible personal events of two hundred years ago.