Black and white descendants of Thomas Jefferson to speak at Goshen College Feb. 2

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Black and white descendants of Thomas Jefferson to speak at Goshen College Feb. 2

Event/Lecture/Concert: Shay Banks-Young and Julia Jefferson: Descendants of President Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, his slave

Date: Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2005

Time: 7 p.m.

Location: Umble Center

Cost: Free and open to the public

Event sponsor: Plowshares Peace Studies Collaborative

GOSHEN, Ind. – When genetic testing completed in 1998 suggested that Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States, bore children with Sally Hemings, one of his slaves, it did not shock Julia Jefferson and Shay Banks-Young who have always believed their great-great-grandfathers were sons of Jefferson and Hemings.

Banks-Young, who is black, is the great-great-great granddaughter of Madison Hemings and grew up in the ghetto. Her new found cousin Jefferson, who is white, is the great-great-great granddaughter of Eston Hemings and grew up in a privileged, white middle-class home.

Banks-Young and Jefferson will tell their stories and invite audience discussion at Goshen College on Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. in Umble Center.

In this unique presentation, the audience will have the opportunity to listen in on their conversation and hear these women talk about the differences and similarities they share. The two women desire audience participation for an interactive program. They hope their story will bring about more honest and open dialogue about these important race issues.

The controversy over this relationship between President Jefferson and Sally Hemings, which seems to have lasted 38 years, leaves many questions about race relations in the United States. Some historians, and some members of Jefferson’s family, still discredit the claim of Jefferson and Hemings’ relations.

Jefferson is a former educator turned businesswoman and Banks-Young is currently a preventive health trainer and poet who has hosted her own public affairs talk show.

Together and individually, Banks-Young and Jefferson have appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “BET Tonight” with Tavis Smiley and “Sally Jesse Raphael.” They have also been interviewed by Time, U.S. News & World Report and People.

Jefferson said of Banks-Young, “She had to fight to get where she is. The two of us bonded and it isn’t about color; it is about family. We met on the ‘Oprah’ show and we became immediate, firm fast friends. Thirty of us met after ‘Oprah’ and we could recognize family traits across the races.”

Anne Gordon-Reed, author of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy, said on “The NewsHour” with Jim Leher, “The thing this shows very clearly is that we’re not two separate people, black and white; we are a people who share a common culture, a common land, and it turns out a common bloodline, and this is something we haven’t wanted to deal with openly.”

The event is sponsored by the Plowshares Peace Studies Project, a collaboration of Goshen, Manchester and Earlham colleges that strives to connect communities and educational institutions with imaginative ways to address the problems of violence and related challenges that confront America and the world today.

– Anna Groff

Editors: For more information about this release, to arrange an interview or request a photo, contact Goshen College News Bureau Director Jodi H. Beyeler at (574) 535-7572 or


Goshen College, established in 1894, is a residential Christian liberal arts college rooted in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition. The college’s Christ-centered core values – passionate learning, global citizenship, compassionate peacemaking and servant-leadership – prepare students as leaders for the church and world. Recognized for its unique Study-Service Term program, Goshen has earned citations of excellence in Barron’s Best Buys in Education, “Colleges of Distinction,” “Making a Difference College Guide” and U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” edition, which named Goshen a “least debt college.” Visit