Saturday, March 30, 2013

Carl Roy Wachsmuth

MEMPHIS TN (IFS) --  Carl Roy Wachsmuth passed away on March 16, 2013 at his home in Arbuckle, Calif. to join his predeceased parents, Anna and Henry Wachsmuth. He was 78 years old, born in Arbuckle, where he resided his entire life.  My mother knew him as "Mr. Roy", a wonderful, wonderful person that had to be one of God's Angels on this earth.

Carl's motto was that of the United States Postal Letter Carriers; "Neither wind, nor snow, nor rain shall keep me from my appointed rounds."  Or something like that anyway.  Without fail or an excuse of any kind, Mr. Roy should be there in time to lend a helping hand when you needed it.

Mr. Roy was one who loved mankind and was kind to everyone.

There were no bad words about Mr. Roy.  There are not even bad rumors.  Also everyone knew Carl by his middle name of Roy.  If you call ed by his first name, one you were a real stranger, a salesman, definitely a telemarketer.

My mother, the Reverend Rillie Louise Gilchrist gave a quick and personal testimony of how Mr. Roy affected her life and telling the very large gathering of people there too give their last respects to a great person and friend.

Roy is survived by his sister Rita Rouke and her husband Gar of Colusa and his two nieces Christine Rouke and Kimberley Rouke DeVincenzi.

Roy was a long time employee of Amerigas Co. (Formerly Cal-Gas) and serviced many people in the area, creating lifetime friendships. He was a fun-loving, jovial, compassionate person always available to lend a helping hand. He was an active member of the Arbuckle Fire Department for 26 years from 1962 to 1988 and attained a lifetime membership status remaining active in the organization many activities, especially performing his cooking talents.

Roy was active in the "Every 15 Minutes Program" sponsored by CHP. He loved attending youth sports activated and was an avid supporter of Little League.

Roy was a member of the US Army and served in the Korean War and attained an Honorable Discharge. He enjoyed hunting and fishing with close friends. He was a member for 49 years with the Woodland Elks Lodge # 1288, and of the Moose Lodge for many years.

Graveside services will be at the Arbuckle Cemetery at 11 a.m. on Friday, March 29, 2013 with a reception to follow at the Arbuckle Fire Hall.

Donations in lieu of flowers in Roy's memory can be sent to Arbuckle Volunteer Fire Dept., P.O. Box 727, Arbuckle, Ca., 95912, or to a charity of your choice .

Roy will be missed by his family and his many friends in the area. He was loved by many.

Published in Willows Journal from March 23 to March 30, 2013

Ray Johnson Dies at 82, Piano Legend could play for a head of lettuce and get a hit record

RENO NV (IFS) -- RG Ingersoll reported yesterday of the passing of his renown international keyboardist and artist, Ray Johnson.  Ingersoll was Johnson last record producer for his HoTrax Productions company. Johnson who was 82 at the time and was working at the NBC Universal Hilton in Studio City, California. Johnson's hot licks on the piano has been featured on over hundreds of songs and several hundred number 1 Billboard singles.  Ingersoll told a show crowd during a festival on the California Central Coast some years ago, that "Johnson could play for a head of lettuce, and get a hit recording."  Mr. Johnson you will be missed, but thankful that your music and memories will live digitally forever.

Ray Johnson - R.I.P.
Raymond “Ray” Johnson, 82, of Woodland Hills, California, passed away at his home on Saturday, March 16, 2013. He was born in New Orleans to Plas J. and Grace Johnson.

Ray is an accomplished and distinguished piano entertainer. Born in New Orleans, Ray's early influence in music was blues artists like Charles Brown, Ray Charles and T Born Walker. His mother Grace played piano, so that's the instrument of his choice since the age of 4. She was his first teacher, just by letting him sit by her as she practiced, he watched her fingers and would try to play what she played.

Ray formally studied music at Xavier University and took private lessons for about 4 years. Music was his major at Dillard University for 3 years. At college, Dillard University, in New Orleans, his brother Plas and Ray formed the Johnson Brothers Combo. Together they played gigs in and out of the city for a while. He went to Germany and conducted a military band for a while playing the alto sax. When they left the army, they played in Watsonville and Salinas California for about a year, then they came to Los Angeles and continued to perform together until Plas got his group and Ray organized his sound with piano bass and drums.

In the early 60's he made records with Johnny Otis and his TV Show. Around this time he arranged national hit "Death of an Angel" and "a casual look" with Flip records. He also started at this time to work under Rene Hall and Jimmy Haskell, two renowned recording arrangers.His career highlights are numerous such as: the 75th Oscar Awards as keyboardist for Queen Latifah & Catherine Zeta Jones, with Sammy Davis Jr. along with the Johnny Otis Show. The 6th Annual Rhythm & Blues Pioneer Awards, Band Member of the Monterey Jazz Festival, Pianist with Johnny Otis Band, and more.

Ray appeared also on television portraying Ray Charles for the Heineken Beer Commercial - as a Musical Cast Member in "The Rosie Gier Variety Show" on ABC, The Johnny Otis Show as Cast Performer. He is also good in acting such in "Beggar Man Thief" portraying Nat King Cole, in "The little Richard Story" portraying himself and many other roles.

The 60's was his famous recording years with Rick Nelson, Nat Cole, Sam Cooke, Frank Sinatra to name a few. During this period he was pianist with the #1 TV show in the nation "Shindig". Many International names performed with them on that show . His first video was with Aretha Franklin singing "Mockin Bird"...After his studio he continued with his trio, duo and singles work both locally and in Japan. Ray has been to Japan 12 times (Tokyo 3 times, Osaka 7 times, Fuko o ko once, Kobe once). He just completed 2 months in Dakanyama, Japan at the Tableaux Piano Bar. Now he plans to try Europe and the Middle East.

Ray Johnson can be heard playing the rhythmic piano parts on such classics as "Traveling Man" by Ricky Nelson and "Rambling Rose" by Nat "King" Cole. After several sessions with his brother, sax man Plas Johnson, Ray recorded several sides with soul singer Sam Cooke. Ray provided great insight on his own career, placing his main inspiration on his mother. He also talked about Cooke's last recording session before his tragic death in 1964.

Ray Johnson

Ray Johnson is the older brother of saxman Plas Johnson (born 1931). Theirs was a Creole family that included other fine musical talents, like singing sister Gwen Johnson and cousins Renald Richard (who co-wrote "I Got A Woman" with Ray Charles), Don Vappie and Michael White. Their father, Plas Johnson Sr., was a musician who played multiple instruments, saxophone, guitar and banjo.

Ray and Plas attended grammar school in Thibodaux and later Dillard University, a private liberal arts college in New Orleans. Ray played saxophone and drums in his school bands, but he settled on the piano when nightclub owner Ernie Stovall hired the brothers, with Plas playing a b-flat soprano sax, for their first gig when they were 13 and 12. They continued to play nightclubs whenever they could and by the late 1940s the teenage Johnson Brothers Combo was a respected band in New Orleans, playing shows at various clubs, including the Dew Drop Inn. Paul Gayten recognized their talent and recorded them for DeLuxe Records in 1949.

Ray mentions Ray Charles, Nat King Cole and, most of all, Charles Brown, as his idols from that period. The Johnson Brothers broke up temporarily when Plas joined Charles Brown's band in 1951. Soon both he and Ray were drafted into the army. Upon getting out in 1953, Ray returned briefly to New Orleans. That is when and where he recorded his four Mercury sides (clearly influenced by Charles Brown), which were released on two singles and have just been reissued by Bear Family on the 2-CD "The Mercury Records New Orleans Sessions 1950 & 1953".

In 1954, he rejoined Plas who had moved to California where he would become one of the busiest session men on the L.A. music scene. Though it took some time, Ray also became an in demand session player, like his brother and other fellow New Orleans expatriates Earl Palmer and Rene Hall. He played piano on the doowop hit "A Casual Look" by the Six Teens (Flip 315, 1956) and also had two solo releases on Flip. He worked with Earl Palmer at Aladdin, for which he recorded two further singles, and had also singles released on Dot, Glam, Liberty, RCA, Imperial and Acclaim. In November 1959 Ray became Ricky Nelson's regular session pianist (succeeding Gene Garf) and Ray can be heard on such hits as "Hello Mary Lou", "Travelin' Man" and "A Wonder Like You". Later he played on albums by Bobby Darin, Nat King Cole ("Ramblin' Rose"), Canned Heat and T-Bone Walker. Ray is the pianist on the first LP ("Let's Go") by the instrumental group The Routers. The flip of their hit "Let's Go" was "Mashy" and I had owned that single for 40 years when I bought the Buena Vista CD release of "Let's Go / Charge + Bonus Tracks "in 2003. On that CD the piano on "Mashy" is mixed much more to the fore than on the single and it shows Ray's piano skills as a sideman at its best. Ray also did television shows, including "The Johnny Otis Show", "Shindig" and "The Rosy Grier Show" in L.A., along with commercials. He has made more than a dozen trips to Japan where blues piano balladeers ar very popular. Today is he still working in the neighbour- hood bars and plans to put out a reunion Johnson Brothers CD.

Not much is available by Ray on CD. Apart from the four Mercury sides mentioned above, three Flip tracks by the Ray Johnson Combo were recently reissued on "Flip Hits! Plus Flip Misses" (Ace 1086) and "Itty Bitty Bee", recorded for Johnny Otis's Dig label and originally unissued, has been included on "Dapper Cats, Groovy Tunes And Hot Guitars" (Ace 351). In 2000 Ray recorded the CD "Ray Johnson Bluz" for the Goad label : and there may be other recent releases on Goad, which are probably hard to get.

Acknowledgements :
- Tapio Väisänen
- Rick Coleman, Liner notes for "Mercury Records : The New Orleans Sessions 1950 & 1953" (Bear Family BCD 16804, 2-CD). Among Coleman's sources is even a reference to the Shakin' All Over library (Bo Berglind's article on Murray Nash, who produced the New Orleans sessions).

Ray was an accomplished piano-playing entertainer. His early influences were blues artists like Charles Brown, Ray Charles and T-Bone Walker. His mother Grace played piano and was his first teacher. He and his brother Plas formed the Johnson Brothers Combo when both were teens and played gigs around New Orleans, and recorded for Deluxe Records. He attended Dillard University in New Orleans for 2 years before being drafted into the Army. He returned to New Orleans briefly after being discharged, then moved to California to join brother Plas.

Ray’s credits are extensive, ranging from recording with the likes of Ricky Nelson, Nat King Cole, Sam Cooke and Frank Sinatra. He was part of the musical casts of Shindig, The Johnny Otis Show and the Rosy Grier Show, and did commercials (Heineken beer) and some acting (Beggar Man, Thief, portraying Nat King Cole, and The Little Richard Story, among others.) He also did the arranging for the hits Death of an Angel, and A Casual Look. He played keyboards for Queen Latifah and Catherine Zeta Jones on the 75th Oscar Awards, among many other accomplishments.

He is survived by his wife, Helen, brother Plas, and several nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents and sister Gwen.

Memorial arrangements to be announced at a later date.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Alvah C. Roebuck - Black English Parents - Sears and Roebuck Never Say

Alvah C. Roebuck asked Richard W. Sears to buy out his interest in the company in 1895. Richard Sears asked Roebuck to remain with the company as a salaried employee to manage the Sears Home Entertainment Department. After four years Roebuck quit to form his own movie projector manufacturing company, with Sears becoming one of his best customers. In 1903, Roebuck worked on the first of many improvements to the motion picture machine, building the Optigraph Motion Picture Machine. Roebuck later returned to Sears in 1933 and worked for wages until 1940. During this time he wrote a history of Sears early days, and became a star attraction at Sears store openings. Roebuck passed away June 18, 1948, never publicly regretting the fortune he missed by not staying with Sears, Roebuck and Co

Alvah C. Roebuck (1864-1948)

Co-Founder "It was our constant desire to maintain our margin of superiority by means of improvements and new inventions." (1934)

Alvah Curtis Roebuck, co-founder of Sears, Roebuck and Co., was born on January 9, 1864, in Lafayette, Ind., of English parentage.

When Alvah was three years old, his family moved to a farm about five miles outside of Lafayette. It was there that Alvah attended country school, and his mother took over the family farm when her husband died in 1876.

At an early age, Alvah showed a great interest in mechanical things, and at 16 he was already a self-taught watchmaker. When he reached 22, Alvah secured a position in a small jewelry store in Hammond, Ind. The following year, impatient to get ahead and earn more money, he began scanning the help-wanted sections of Chicago newspapers.

On April 1, 1887, Roebuck answered an advertisement for a watchmaker in the Chicago Daily News, and two days later he received a reply—Richard W. Sears wanted to hire him. Thus began the association of two men who would soon form one of the world's best-known business partnerships. The firm was incorporated as Sears, Roebuck and Company in 1893.

In 1895, Roebuck asked Sears to buy him out. However, at Richard Sears' request, he took charge of a division that handled watches, jewelry, optical goods, and, later, phonographs, magic lanterns and motion picture machines. His business interests did not end with Sears. He later organized and financed two companies: a manufacturer and a distributor of motion picture machines and accessories. Roebuck also served as president (1909-1924) of Emerson Typewriter Company, where he invented an improved typewriter, called the "Woodstock."

After several years in semi-retirement in Florida, the financial losses he suffered in the stock market crash of 1929 forced Roebuck to return to Chicago. By 1933, Roebuck had rejoined Sears, Roebuck and Co., where he largely devoted his time to compiling a history of the company he helped found.

Then, in September of 1934, a Sears store manager asked Mr. Roebuck to make a public appearance at his store. After an enthusiastic public turnout, Mr. Roebuck went on tour, appearing at retail stores across the country for the next several years.

Alvah Roebuck returned to his desk at company headquarters in Chicago, where he enthusiastically assumed the task of compiling a corporate history until his death on June 18, 1948.

Company History:
With a network of more than 870 full-line department stores and 1,300 freestanding specialty stores in the United States and Canada, Sears, Roebuck and Co. is the world's fourth largest retailer. For more than a century Sears has provided consumers with top brand names synonymous with durability and quality. Craftsman tools, Kenmore appliances, Diehard car batteries, and WeatherBeater paint are a just a few of its most recognized products; Sears also provides a variety of competitively priced apparel for men, women, and children featuring its own brands (Canyon River Blues, Covington, TKS Basics) and such staples as Levi's jeans and Nike athleticwear. A newer addition to its empire came with catalogue and online retailer Lands' End, acquired in 2001.

Humble Beginnings: Late 1880s to 1914

Sears bears the name of Richard W. Sears, who was working as a North Redwood, Minnesota, freight agent for the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad in 1886 when a local jeweler gave him an unwanted shipment of pocket watches rather than return them to the manufacturer. Sears sold them to agents down the line who then resold them at the retail level. He ordered and sold more watches and within six months made $5,000. He quit the railroad and founded the R.W. Sears Watch Company in Minneapolis.

Business expanded so quickly that Sears moved to Chicago in 1887 to be in a more convenient communications and shipping center. Soon customers began to bring in watches for repairs. Since he knew nothing about fixing them, Sears hired Alvah Roebuck, a watch repairman from Indiana, ALVAR CURTIS ROEBUCK - A BLACK BUSINESSMAN
in 1887. A shrewd and aggressive salesman--a colleague once said of him, "He could probably sell a breath of air"--Sears undersold his competition by buying up discontinued lines from manufacturers and passing on the discounts to customers. At various times from 1888 to 1891, thinking himself bored with the business, Sears sold out to Roebuck but came back each time.

In 1888 the company published the first of its famous mail-order catalogues. It was 80 pages long and advertised watches and jewelry. Within two years the catalogue grew to 322 pages, filled with clothes, jewelry, and such durable goods as sewing machines, bicycles, and even keyboard instruments. In 1894 the catalogue cover proclaimed Sears was the "Cheapest Supply House on Earth."

The company changed its name to its current form in 1893, but Alvah Roebuck, uncomfortable with his partner's financial gambles, sold out his share two years later and remained with the firm as a repairman. Sears promptly found two new partners to replace Roebuck: local entrepreneur Aaron Nusbaum and Nusbaum's brother-in-law, haberdasher Julius Rosenwald. The company recapitalized at $150,000, with each man taking a one-third stake. The company continued to prosper; when the cantankerous Nusbaum was forced to sell out in 1901 after clashing with Sears, his interest was worth $1.25 million.

There was little harmony between the two remaining partners, Rosenwald and Sears. Sears believed in continuous expansion and risk-taking; Rosenwald advocated consolidation and caution. Rosenwald also objected to his partner's fondness for the hard sell in the catalogue and advertising copy. Had the Federal Trade Commission existed then, some of the company's advertising practices probably would not have passed muster--but it should be mentioned that Richard Sears invented the unconditional money-back guarantee and stood by it.

In 1905 construction began on a new headquarters plant on Chicago's west side to consolidate all of the company's functions. To help raise the necessary capital, Sears went public in 1906. Yet Wall Street was leery of the incautious Richard Sears and he resigned as president in 1908 when it became clear he was obstructing the firm's progress. He was appointed chairman, but his heart was never in the job and he retired in 1913, never having presided over a board meeting. Sears died the following year at the age of 50. Near the end of his life, he summarized his career as a merchant: "Honesty is the best policy. I know, I've tried it both ways."

New Leadership and Growth: 1915 to the Late 1920s

Sears was now Julius Rosenwald's company to run and he did it with such skill and success he became one of the richest men in the world. Sales rose sixfold between 1908 and 1920, and in 1911 Sears began offering credit to its customers at a time when banks would not even consider lending to consumers. During this time the company grew to the point where its network of suppliers, combined with its own financing and distribution operations, constituted a full-fledged economic system in itself. Rosenwald's personal fortune allowed him to become a noted philanthropist--he gave away $63 million over the course of his life, much of it to Jewish causes and to improve the education of Southern blacks. As a result of the latter, he became a trustee of the Tuskegee Institute and a good friend of its founder, Booker T. Washington.

The depression of the early 1920s dealt Sears a sharp blow. In 1921 the company posted a loss of $16.4 million and omitted its quarterly dividend for the first time. Rosenwald responded by slashing executive salaries and even eliminated his own. He was also persuaded to donate 50,000 shares from his personal holdings to the company treasury to reduce outstanding capital stock and restore the firm's standing with its creditors. Sears thus weathered the crisis and benefited from the general prosperity that followed.

Was Roebuck was black?
At one of my classes a few weeks ago, while discussing the black experience in America, the instructor mentioned that "Roebuck (of sears Roebuck) was black." One student in the class said "That's right;" most of the responses ranged from thoughtful "Huh!" expressions to disbelief that they had never known this.

Curious to learn more about this supposedly forgotten historical figure, I Googled around a bit - none of the online biographies or Sears Co. histories mention Alvah Roebuck's ethnicity, nor does his picture look particularly African-American (not that one can always tell):

A few blogs/amateur history sites throw out the factoid, but never with any citations.

So, was Alvah Roebuck black, and deliberately forgotten as an important player in American business history? Could it be the people relating the story are using the same "one drop" principle that people used to call Warren G. Harding black? Or is the whole thing in error?

John C Hanson, In November 1781, he was elected President of the Continental Congress, and became the first president to serve a one-year term under the provisions of the Articles of Confederation

John Hanson (April 14 [O.S. April 3] 1721 – November 15, 1783) was a merchant and public official from Maryland during the era of the American Revolution. After serving in a variety of roles for the Patriot cause in Maryland, in 1779 Hanson was elected as a delegate to the Continental Congress. He signed the Articles of Confederation in 1781 after Maryland finally joined the other states in ratifying them.

In November 1781, he was elected President of the Continental Congress, and became the first president to serve a one-year term under the provisions of the Articles of Confederation. Because of this, some of his descendants, along with some amateur historians, have claimed that he had actually been the first President of the United States.

Early life

John Hanson was born in Port Tobacco Parish in Charles County in the Province of Maryland on April 3, 1721,[1][3] which in the modern calendar system is equivalent to April 14. Sources published prior to a 1940 genealogical study[4] sometimes listed his birth date as April 13[5] or his year of birth as 1715.[6]

Hanson was born on a plantation called "Mulberry Grove" into a wealthy and prominent family.[7] His parents were Samuel (c. 1685–1740) and Elizabeth (Storey) Hanson (c. 1688–1764).[3] Samuel Hanson was a planter who owned more than 1,000 acres (4.0 km2),[1] and held a variety of political offices, including serving two terms in the Maryland General Assembly.[5]

John Hanson was of English ancestry; his grandfather, also named John, came to Charles County, Maryland, as an indentured servant around 1661.[8] In 1876, a writer named George Hanson placed John Hanson in his family tree of Swedish-Americans descended from four Swedish brothers who emigrated to New Sweden in 1642.[8][9] This story was often repeated over the next century, but scholarly research in the late 20th century showed that John Hanson was of English heritage and not related to those Swedish-American Hansons.[8][10]

Little is known about Hanson's early life; he was presumably privately tutored as was customary among the gentry of his time and place.[11] He followed his father's path as a planter, slave owner, and public official. He was often referred to as John Hanson, Jr., to distinguish him from an older man of the same name. About 1744 he married Jane Contee (1728–1812), with whom he would have eight children.[1][3] Their son Peter Contee Hanson (1758–1776)[3] died in the battle of Fort Washington during the American Revolutionary War. Their oldest son Alexander Contee Hanson, Sr. (1749–1806) was a notable essayist.[12] Alexander Hanson is sometimes confused with his son, Alexander Contee Hanson, Jr. (1786–1819), who became a newspaper editor and US Senator.

Political career

Hanson's career in public service began in 1750, when he was appointed sheriff of Charles County.[1] In 1757 he was elected to represent Charles County in the lower house of the Maryland General Assembly, where he served over the next twelve years, sitting on many important committees.[1] Maryland was a proprietary colony, and Hanson aligned himself with the "popular" or "country" party, which opposed any expansion of the power of the proprietary governors at the expense of the popularly elected lower house. He was a leading opponent of the 1765 Stamp Act, chairing the committee that drafted the instructions for Maryland's delegates to the Stamp Act Congress. In protest of the Townshend Acts, in 1769 Hanson was one of the signers of a nonimportation resolution that boycotted British imports until the acts were repealed.

Hanson changed course in 1769, apparently to better pursue his business interests. He resigned from the General Assembly, sold his land in Charles County, and moved to Frederick County in western Maryland. There he held a variety of offices, including deputy surveyor, sheriff, and county treasurer.[1][3]

When relations between Great Britain and the colonies became a crisis in 1774, Hanson became one of Frederick County's leading Patriots. He chaired a town meeting that passed a resolution opposing the Boston Port Act.[1] In 1775, he was a delegate to the Maryland Convention, an extralegal body convened after the colonial assembly had been prorogued. With the other delegates, he signed the Association of Freemen on July 26, 1775, which expressed hope for reconciliation with Great Britain, but also called for military resistance to enforcement of the Coercive Acts.[5]

With hostilities underway, Hanson chaired the Frederick County committee of observation, part of the Patriot organization that assumed control of local governance. Responsible for recruiting and arming soldiers, Hanson proved to be an excellent organizer, and Frederick County sent the first southern troops to join George Washington's army.[1][14] Because funds were scarce, Hanson frequently paid soldiers and others with his own money.[15] In June 1776, Hanson chaired the Frederick County meeting that urged provincial leaders in Annapolis to instruct Maryland's delegates in the Continental Congress to declare independence from Great Britain.[16] While Congress worked on the Declaration of Independence, Hanson was in Frederick County "making gunlocks, storing powder, guarding prisoners, raising money and troops, dealing with Tories, and doing the myriad other tasks which went with being chairman of the committee of observation".[16]

Hanson was elected to the newly reformed Maryland House of Delegates in 1777, the first of five annual terms.[1] In December 1779, the House of Delegates named Hanson as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress; he began serving in Congress in Philadelphia in June 1780.[17][3] "Hanson came to Philadelphia with the reputation of having been the leading financier of the revolution in western Maryland, and soon he was a member of several committees dealing with finance."[17]

When Hanson was elected to Congress, Maryland was holding up the ratification of the Articles of Confederation. The state, which did not have any claims on western land, refused to ratify the Articles until the other states had ceded their western land claims.[18] When the other states finally did so, the Maryland legislature decided in January 1781 to ratify the Articles.[17] When Congress received notice of this, Hanson joined Daniel Carroll in signing the Articles of Confederation on behalf of Maryland on March 1, 1781. With Maryland's endorsement, the Articles officially went into effect.[17] Many years later, some Hanson biographers claimed that Hanson had been instrumental in arranging the compromise and thus securing ratification of the Articles, but, according to historian Ralph Levering, there is no documentary evidence of Hanson's opinions or actions in resolving the controversy.[17]
President of Congress

On November 5, 1781, Congress elected Hanson as president of the Continental Congress [3] (or "president of the Congress of the Confederacy"[5] or "president of Congress"[3]). Under the Articles of Confederation, the United States had no executive branch; the president of Congress was a mostly ceremonial position, but the office did require Hanson to handle a good deal of correspondence and sign official documents.[19] Hanson found the work tedious and considered resigning after just one week, citing his poor health and family responsibilities.[3] Colleagues urged him to remain because Congress at the moment lacked a quorum to choose a successor.[3] Out of a sense of duty, Hanson remained in office, [1][20] although his term as a delegate to Congress was nearly expired. The Maryland Assembly reelected him as a delegate on November 28, 1781, and so Hanson continued to serve as president until November 4, 1782.[3]

The Articles of Confederation stipulated that presidents of Congress serve one-year terms, and Hanson became the first president to do so.[1][21] [22] Contrary to the claims of some of his later advocates, however, he was not the first president to serve under the Articles, nor the first to be elected under the Articles.[23] When the Articles went into effect in March 1781, Congress did not bother to elect a new president; instead, Samuel Huntington continued serving a term that had already exceeded a year.[24] On July 9, 1781, Samuel Johnston became the first man to be elected as president of Congress after the ratification of the Articles.[25] He declined the office, however, perhaps to make himself available for North Carolina's gubernatorial election.[26] After Johnston turned down the office, Thomas McKean was elected.[27][24] McKean served just a few months, resigning in October 1781 after hearing news of the British surrender at Yorktown. Congress asked him to remain in office until November, when a new session of Congress was scheduled to begin.[21] It was in that session that Hanson began to serve his one-year term. A highlight of Hanson's term was when George Washington presented Cornwallis's sword to Congress.[28]

In 1781, during Hanson's presidency, Ned Barnes, one of Hanson's slaves, ran away. Hanson published an advertisement in the Maryland Gazette, offering a $30 reward for Barnes' recapture. Barnes was recaptured, but he stole a horse and ran off again to be with his wife, who lived on a plantation in Charles County, Maryland.[29] Hanson gave up on getting Barnes back and instead sold him to the plantation to which he had escaped.[30]
Death and legacy

Hanson retired from public office after his one-year term as president of Congress. In poor health, he died on November 15, 1783,[1] while visiting Oxon Hill Manor in Prince George's County, Maryland, the plantation of his nephew Thomas Hawkins Hanson. He was buried there.[3] Hanson owned at least 223 acres of land and 11 slaves at the time of his death.[3]

The bronze statue of Hanson in the National Statuary Hall Collection

In 1898, Douglas H. Thomas, a descendant of Hanson, wrote a biography promoting Hanson as the first true President of the United States. Thomas became the "driving force"[31] behind the selection of Hanson as one of the two people who would represent Maryland in the National Statuary Hall Collection in Washington, D.C.[31][1] Hanson was not initially on the shortlist for consideration, but he was chosen after lobbying by the Maryland Historical Society.[32] In 1903, bronze statues of Hanson and Charles Carroll by sculptor Richard E. Brooks were added to Statuary Hall; Hanson's is currently located on the 2nd floor of the Senate connecting corridor.[33] Small versions of these two statues (maquettes) sit on the president's desk in the Senate Chamber of the Maryland State House.[34]

Some historians have questioned the appropriateness of Hanson's selection for the honor of representing Maryland in Statuary Hall. According to historian Gregory Stiverson, Hanson was not one of Maryland's foremost leaders of the Revolutionary era.[1] In 1975, historian Ralph Levering said that "Hanson shouldn't have been one of the two Marylanders" chosen,[31] but he wrote that Hanson "probably contributed as much as any other Marylander to the success of the American Revolution".[35] In the 21st century, Maryland lawmakers have considered replacing Hanson's statue in Statuary Hall with one of Harriet Tubman.[32][36]

The idea that Hanson was the forgotten first President of the United States was further promoted in a 1932 biography of Hanson by journalist Seymour Wemyss Smith.[37] Smith's book asserted that the American Revolution had two primary leaders: George Washington on the battlefield, and John Hanson in politics.[38] Smith's book, like Douglas H. Thomas's 1898 book, was one of a number of biographies written by amateur historians seeking to promote Hanson as the "first President of the United States".[2] "They're not biographies by professional historians; they aren't based on research into primary sources" said historian Ralph Levering.[31] According to historian Richard B. Morris, if a president of Congress were to be called the first President of the United States, "a stronger case could be made for Peyton Randolph of Virginia, the first President of the first and second Continental Congresses, or for John Hancock, the President of Congress when that body declared its independence."[23] The claim that Hanson was a forgotten President of the United States was revived on the Internet, sometimes with a new assertion that he was actually a black man; an anachronistic photograph of Senator John Hanson of Liberia has been used to support this claim.[39]

In 1972, Hanson was depicted on a 6-cent US postal card, which featured his name and portrait next to the word "Patriot".[40] Historian Irving Brant criticized the selection of Hanson for the card, arguing that it was a result of the "old hoax" promoting Hanson as the first president of the United States.[41] In 1981, Hanson was featured on a 20-cent US postage stamp.[42] U.S. Route 50 between Washington D.C. and Annapolis is named the John Hanson Highway in his honor. There are also middle schools located in Oxon Hill, Maryland, and Waldorf, Maryland, named after him. A former savings bank named for him was merged in the 1990s with Industrial Bank of Washington, D.C.

In the 1970s, a descendant of Hanson, John Hanson Briscoe, served as Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, which passed "a measure establishing April 14 as John Hanson Day".[36] In 2009 the John Hanson Memorial Association was incorporated in Frederick, Maryland to create the John Hanson National Memorial and to both educate Americans about Hanson as well as counter the many myths written about him. The Memorial includes a statue of President John Hanson and an interpretive setting in Frederick, Maryland, where Hanson lived between 1769 and his death in 1783. The Memorial is in the Frederick County Courthouse's courtyard at the corner of Court and West Patrick Streets. Leaders of the Memorial include President Peter Hanson Michael, Vice President Robert Hanson and Directors John Hanson Briscoe and John C. Hanson.

The Five Black US Presidents

The 5 Black US Presidents
Jim Blair

If you think - as popular ethnology thoughout the ages, not to mention the US census, has assumed - that anyone who has any 'black blood' counts as black, you should find the following exchange from usenet, compiled by Big Issue Ground author Jim Blair, interesting. You can explore the topic in further detail by buying a popular $4 pamplet on the subject from

I recently was informed that there were black presidents before George Washington and the book "Five Black Presidents" was a good source of information. However, I can't find it anywhere. So, I just wanted to know if there where black presidents before G.W. Thanks, ED

The book was published in 1965 by the noted historian J.A. Rogers. Actually only four Presidents of Afrikan ancestry are identified in the book. They are: 1) Thomas Jefferson 2) Andrew Jackson 3) Abraham Lincoln 4) Warren G. Harding

The 5th was not named in the book at that time. Even though the evidence was strong, at the time of the writing of the book, it was not conclusive that Eisenhower is/was the fifth one.

It is also asserted that Vice-President Hannibal Hamlin, was known to have "black blood" in him. In addition, Alexander Hamilton is said to be the son of a woman, Rachel Fawcett, who had "mixed Blood".


I picked this book up a few years ago and found it quite interesting. It was written by a contemporary black woman with a Ph.D. in black history or something and partly based on J.A. Rogers booklet which was published under a similar title much earlier. J.A. Rogers, of course, is the great self-taught black historian/sociologist. The later book is a small press one that probably did have a substantial first printing. I saw it once in a black book store and never again anywhere else.

I found all but two of the arguments weak, speculative, mainly. Then, of course, there was Warren Harding, the worst President ever who particularly admitted he had a black ancestor: "I honestly can't say who my grand-daddy went to the woodpile with". And then the stunner - Dwight Eisenhower. The argument presented for him knocked me off my feet. I've been convinced he's black ever since.

The Eisenhower argument was presented straightforward enough. In the Virginia town he was born there were two "Links" families, a white one, and a black one. The question is, which one did his maternal grandfather come from? Eisenhower's maternal grandmother isn't suspect. Her lineage is lily-white as far back as you can go. But this guy who married, Eisenhower's mother had a child with her, then disappeared, is the one. Two other items about this case. Interviews made during the 50s uncovered some very old people who long remembered referring to Eisenhower's mother as "that black Links gal." These people asserted there was never any question about what she was. And finally, the most stunning piece of evidence: a picture of Eisenhower's mother on her wedding day. This picture is included in Eisenhower's auto-biography, "At Ease!" I dropped the book when I saw it. This woman would not have been able to eat in restaurants anywhere in the South before the end of segregation.


Joel Augustus Rogers (September 6, 1883 – March 26, 1966) was a Jamaican-American author, journalist, and historian who contributed to the history of Africa and the African diaspora, especially the history of African Americans in the United States. His research spanned the academic fields of history, sociology and anthropology. He challenged prevailing ideas about race, demonstrated the connections between civilizations, and traced African achievements. He was one of the greatest popularizers of African history in the 20th century.

Early life and education

Joel Augustus Rogers was born September 6, 1883 in Negril, Jamaica. One of eleven children, he was the son of mixed-race parents who were a minister and schoolteacher. His parents were able to afford to give Rogers and his ten siblings only a rudimentary education, but stressed the importance of learning. Rogers himself claimed to have had a "good basic education". Some sources have implied that he became an autodidact later in life.
Emigration and career

Rogers emigrated from Jamaica to the United States in 1906, where he settled in Harlem, New York. There he lived most of his life. He was there during the Harlem Renaissance, a flowering of African-American artistic and intellectual life in numerous fields. Rogers became a close personal friend of the Harlem-based intellectual and activist Hubert Harrison.

While living in Chicago for a time in the 1920s, Rogers worked as a Pullman porter and as a reporter for the Chicago Enterprise. His job of Pullman porter allowed Rogers to travel and observe a wide range of people. Through this travel, Rogers was able to feed his appetite for knowledge, by using various libraries in the cities which he visited. Rogers self-published the results of his research in several books.
From "Superman" to Man

Rogers' first book From "Superman" to Man, self-published in 1917, attacked notions of African inferiority. From "Superman" to Man is a polemic against the ignorance that fuels racism. The central plot revolves around a debate between a Pullman porter and a white racist Southern politician. Rogers used this debate to air many of his personal philosophies and to debunk stereotypes about black people and white racial superiority. The porter’s arguments and theories are pulled from a plethora of sources, classical and contemporary, and run the gamut from history and anthropology to biology. Many of the ideas that permeated Rogers’ later work can be seen germinating in From "Superman" to Man. Rogers addresses issues such as the lack of scientific support for the idea of race, black historical vindicationism, and the fact of intermarriage and unions among peoples throughout history.

Most importantly, the book reveals Rogers' atheistic viewpoint. When asked by the white politician if Christianity has brought solace to Blacks, the Pullman porter replies:

"To enslave a man, then dope him to make him content! Do you call THAT a solace?...The honest fact is that the greatest hinderance to the progress of the Negro is that dope that was shot into him during slavery...The slogan of the Negro devotee is: Take the world but give me Jesus, and the white man strikes an eager bargain with him...Another fact' there are far too many Negro preachers. Religion is the single most fruitful medium for exploiting this already exploited group. As I said, the majority of sharpers, who among whites would go into other fields, go, in this case, to the ministry."[2][3]
Newspaper career

In the 1920s, Rogers worked as a journalist on the Pittsburgh Courier and the Chicago Enterprise. He was a sub-editor of Marcus Garvey's short-lived Daily Negro Times. As a newspaper correspondent, he covered such events as the coronation of Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia for the New York Amsterdam News. He wrote for a variety of black newspapers and journals: Crisis, American Mercury, The Messenger Magazine, the Negro World and Survey Graphic. One of his interviews was with Marcus Garvey in prison (New York Amsterdam News, November 17, 1926).

Rogers served as the only black US war correspondent during World War II.

Rogers also contributed the writing to a syndicated newspaper cartoon feature titled Your History. Patterned after the look of Robert Ripley's popular Believe It or Not cartoons, multiple vignettes in each cartoon episode recounted short items from Rogers' research. The feature began in the Pittsburgh Courier in November 1934, with art by George L. Lee. In 1940, the art chores were handed over to Samuel Milai, who stayed with the feature through the rest of its run. In 1962, the title was changed to Facts About The Negro. The feature outlived its author, and continued appearing regularly until 1971, presumably in reprints at the end of the run. Two collections were published, Your History in 1940 and Facts About The Negro c. 1960.[4]
Other works

Rogers’ work was concerned with "the Great Black Man" theory of history. This theory presented history, specifically black history, as a mural of achievements by prominent black people. Rogers devoted a significant amount of his professional life to unearthing facts about people of African ancestry. He intended these findings to be a refutation of contemporary racist beliefs about the inferiority of blacks. Books such as 100 Amazing Facts about the Negro, Sex and Race, and World’s Great Men of Color, all described remarkable black people throughout the ages and cited significant achievements of black people.

Rogers commented on the partial black ancestry of some prominent Europeans, including Alexander Pushkin and Alexandre Dumas, père. Similarly, Rogers was among those who asserted that a direct ancestor of the British royal family, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, had a remote ancestor who was of African origin.

Rogers’ theories about race, sex and color can be found in the books Nature Knows No Color-Line, World’s Great Men of Color and the pamphlet Five Negro Presidents, all of which deal with the ideas of race, sex and color. In the latter, he provided what he said was evidence that there had been 19th- and 20th-century presidents of the United States who had partial black ancestry.

Rogers surmised that a large percentage of ethnic differences were the result of sociological factors. However, in Rogers’ opinion, often the differences between groups were attributed primarily to physical differences such as race. Rogers deals with the themes of race and sex in the eponymous Sex and Race and also in Nature Knows No Color-Line. Rogers’ research in these works was directed to examining miscegenation and how that has left a black "strain" in Europe and the Americas.

In Nature Knows No Color-Line, Rogers examined the origins of racial hierarchy and the color problem. Rogers stated that the origins of the race problem had never been adequately examined or discussed. Rogers believed that color prejudice generally evolved from issues of domination and power between two physiologically different groups. According to Rogers, color prejudice was then used a rationale for domination, subjugation and warfare. Societies developed myths and prejudices in order to pursue their own interests at the expense of other groups. Rogers was trying to show that there is nothing innate about color prejudice; that there is no natural distaste for darker skin by lighter-skinned people; and that there is no natural aversion for lighter skin by darker-skinned people.

Within these works, Rogers questioned the concept of race, the origins of racial differentiation, and the root of the "color problem." Rogers felt that the "color problem" was that race was used as social, political and economic determining factors.
Philosophy and viewpoint

Rogers was a meticulous researcher, astute scholar and concise writer.[citation needed] He traveled tirelessly on his quest for knowledge, which often took him directly to the source. While traveling in Europe, he frequented libraries, museums, and castles, finding sources that helped him prove African ancestry and history. He challenged the biased viewpoint of Eurocentric historians and anthropologists.

Rogers gathered what he called "the bran of history". The bran of history was the uncollected, unexamined history of the world, and his interest was the history of black people. Rogers intended that the neglected parts of history would become part of the mainstream body of Western history. He saw black inclusion in white historical discourses as helping to bridge racial divides. His scholarship was meant to shed light on hitherto unexamined areas of Africana history. This historical goal made Rogers a vindicationist scholar, attempting to combat the stereotypes of inferiority that were attributed to black people.

Rogers asserted that the color of skin did not determine intellectual genius, and that Africans had contributed more to the world than was previously acknowledged. He publicized the great black civilizations that had flourished in Africa during antiquity. He devoted his scholarship to vindicating a place for African people within Western history. According to Rogers, many ancient African civilizations had been primal molders of Western civilization and culture.

With these assertions, Rogers was attempting to point out the absurdity of racial divisions. Rogers' belief in one race - humanity - precluded the idea of several different ethnic races. In this, Rogers was a humanist. Rogers used vindicationist history as a tool to bolster his ideas about humanism. Rogers used his scholarship to prove his underlying humanistic thesis: that people were one large family without racial boundaries.

Rogers was self-financed, self-educated, and self-published. Some critics have focused on Rogers' lack of a formal education as a hindrance to producing scholarly work; others suggested Rogers' autodidacticism freed him from many academic and methodological restrictions. He made himself free to tackle the difficult racial issues with which he dealt. As an autodidact, Rogers followed his research into various disciplines that more formally educated scholars may have been loath to attempt. His works are complete with detailed references. That he documented his work to encourage scrutiny of his facts was a testament to his due diligence, work ethic and commitment to not only African people, but the world, its history and culture.

Rogers articulated ideas about race that were informed by anthropology and biology, rather than social convention. He used vindicationism not as end in itself, but as a tool to underscore his humanist beliefs, and to illustrate the unity of humanity as a people. He discarded the non-scientific definition of race and pursued his own ideas about humanity’s interconnectedness. Thus, although the work of Rogers has often been relegated to the controversial genre of Afrocentric history, his main contribution to African scholarship was his nuanced analysis of the concept of race.
Legacy and honors

Rogers was a member of professional associations such as the Paris Society of Anthropology, the American Geographical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Academy of Political Science.[1]

Rogers, in the words of Dr. John Henrik Clarke, "looked at the history of people of African origin, and showed how their history is an inseparable part of the history of mankind."

Joel Augustus Rogers died in New York on March 26, 1966[5] in New York City. He was survived by his wife Helga M. Rogers.
From "Superman" to Man. Chicago: J. A. Rogers, 1917. —novel.
As Nature Leads: An Informal Discussion of the Reason Why Negro and Caucasian are Mixing in Spite of Opposition. Chicago: M. A. Donahue & Co, 1919. —novel.
The Approaching Storm and Bow it May be Averted: An Open Letter to Congress Chicago: National Equal Rights League, Chicago Branch: 1920.
"Music and Poetry — The Noblest Arts," Music and Poetry, vol. 1, no. 1 (January 1921).
"The Thrilling Story of The Maroons," serialized in The Negro World, March–April 1922.
"The West Indies: Their Political, Social, and Economic Condition," serialized in The Messenger (Volume 4, Number 9, September 1922).
Blood Money (Novel) serialized in New York Amsterdam News, April 1923.
"The Ku Klux Klan A Menace or A Promise," serialized in The Messenger (Volume 5, Number 3, March 1923).
"Jazz at Home" The Survey Graphic Harlem, vol. 6, no. 6 (March 1925).
"What Are We, Negroes or Americans?" The Messenger, vol. 8, no. 8 (August 1926).
Book Review, Jazz, by Paul Whiteman." Opportunity: The Journal of Negro Life (Volume 4, Number 48, December 1926).
"The Negro's Experience of Christianity and Islam," Review of Nations, Geneva (January–March 1928)
"The American Occupation of Haiti: Its Moral and Economic Benefit," by Dantes Bellegarde. (Translator). Opportunity: Journal of Negro Life (Volume 8, Number 1, January 1930).
"The Negro in Europe," The American Mercury (May 1930).
"The Negro in European History," Opportunity: Journal of Negro Life (Volume 8, Number 6, June 1930).
World's Greatest Men of African Descent. New York: J. A. Rogers Publications, 1931.
"The Americans in Ethiopia," under the pseudonym Jerrold Robbins, in American Mercury (May 1933).
"Enrique Diaz," in Opportunity: Journal of Negro Life, vol. 11, no. 6 (June 1933).
100 Amazing facts about the Negro with Complete Proof. A Short Cut to the World History of the Negro. New York: J. A. Rogers Publications, 1934.
World's Greatest Men and Women of African Descent. New York: J. A. Rogers Publications, 1935.
"Italy Over Abyssinia," The Crisis, Volume 42, Number 2, February 1935.
The Real Facts About Ethiopia. New York: J.A Rogers, 1936.
"When I Was In Europe," Interracial Review: A journal for Christian Democracy, October 1938.
"Hitler and the Negro," Interracial Review: A Journal for Christian Democracy, April 1940.
"The Suppression of Negro History," The Crisis, vol. 47, no. 5 (May 1940).
Your History: From the Beginning of Time to the Present. Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh Courier Publishing Co, 1940.
An Appeal From Pioneer Negroes of the World, Inc: An Open Letter to His Holiness Pope Pius XII. New York: J. A. Rogers, 1940.
Sex and Race: Negro-Caucasian Mixing in All Ages and All Lands, Volume I: The Old World. New York: J. A. Rogers, 1941.
Sex and Race: A History of White, Negro, and Indian Miscegenation in the Two Americas, Volume II: The New World. New York: J. A. Rogers, 1942.
Sex and Race, Volume III: Why White and Black Mix in Spite of Opposition. New York: J. A. Rogers, 1944.
World's Great Men of Color, Volume I: Asia and Africa, and Historical Figures Before Christ, Including Aesop, Hannibal, Cleopatra, Zenobia, Askia the Great, and Many Others. New York : J. A. Rogers, 1946.
World's Great Men of Color, Volume II: Europe, South and Central America, the West Indies, and the United States, Including Alessandro de' Medici, Alexandre Dumas, Dom Pedro II, Marcus Garvey, and Many Others (New York: J. A. Rogers, 1947).
"Jim Crow Hunt," The Crisis (November 1951).
Nature Knows No Color Line: Research into the Negro Ancestry in the White Race. (New York: J. A. Rogers, 1952).
Facts About the Negro. (Drawings by A. S. Milai) (booklet) (Pittsburgh: Lincoln Park Studios, 1960).
Africa's Gift to America: The Afro-American in the Making and Saving of the United States. With New Supplement Africa and its Potentialities. (New York: J. A. Rogers, 1961).
She Walks in Beauty. Los Angeles: Western Publishers, 1963. —novel
"Civil War Centennial: Myth and Reality," Freedomways, vol. 3, no.1 (Winter 1963).
The Five Negro Presidents: According to What White People Said They Were. New York: J. A. Rogers, 1965.

Was Warren G. Harding America's First Black President?

Was Warren G. Harding America's First Black President?

November 2008

Q: There is a lot of talk about Mr. Obama becoming the first black president. I don't think he would be the first. President Warren G. Harding had black ancestors, so based on the definition of race during his time he should rightly be considered a black man. Harding was no less a black man than Homer Plessy, Adam Clayton Powell, Walter White, or Charles Drew.

-- Keith Samuels - New York, New York

A: Racial and national identities have a long, complex, and often unfortunate, association. The current discussions about Barack Obama's chances to become the first black president of "post-racial America" mark the latest attempt to define race as it relates to the presidency. The current incarnation of this debate has created an unlikely link between former president Warren G. Harding and Barack Obama as pundits and bloggers search for a historical precedent. Since the time of George Washington the president has stood as the symbolic head of state, as the embodiment of what it meant to be an American at a given point in time. We celebrate presidential birthplaces, log cabins, and graves as sacred ground in our civic identity. This is why the racial identity of men who have held the office is important and the source of the significance attached to the intersection of the race and the presidency. Whether interrogating the slave-holding status of the Founding Fathers or examining the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, the presidency is one of the places we debate America's "original sin." To earlier generations of voters, the idea that anyone other than a white man might fill that symbolic role was unthinkable. Some see the Obama candidacy as providing an opportunity to move beyond this debate and absolve ourselves of the sin of racism. This is a far cry from what the race debate meant for Warren G. Harding.

In short, there are two elements to the issue of whether or not Harding (or one of the other four or five possible candidates) was the first black president. The two are linked but one is significantly more important than the other. The first is whether or not Harding had a black ancestor. The second, and the more important, boils down to whether or not there is a racial qualification to be president. Although it seems obvious that all of our presidents have been white, some Americans believe that a few presidents had black ancestors, thereby making them black under the outdated and racist "one-drop rule."

Harding is at the top of the list of presidents who have been categorized as black. This line of thought goes back to the obsession that many 19th and early 20th century Americans had with "blood lines" during what is a time when the "one drop rule" was used to define race. Segregationists and Social Darwinists found it important to be able to define race and so argued that any person with a black ancestor was black. In today's world, overt racism is frowned upon in the public sphere, people can self-select from a range of ethnicities and races on the census, and intellectuals discuss race as a social construction. Current discussions of "post-racialism" are a near inversion of the understanding of race that prevailed a century ago. Obama's responses to racially charged issues have been measured and stand in a clear contrast to the role that race played in Harding's campaign for the presidency in 1920.

The issue of race was injected into the 1920 presidential campaign as part of an effort to sink the campaign of Harding, the Republican nominee. William Estabrook Chancellor, a professor at the College of Wooster, attempted to destroy Harding's candidacy by charging that he was a "hybrid," an "octoroon" descended from "Negro" ancestors. Chancellor was a devoted scientific racist. He was also an avid Democrat who worshipped outgoing president Woodrow Wilson. In short, Chancellor argued that Harding's supposed mixed racial ancestry disqualified him for the presidency. He believed that the American public would agree with him, warning Americans that electing Harding could endanger white supremacy.

What did Chancellor offer as evidence of Harding's ancestry? Chancellor found people in central and northern Ohio who were willing to testify that members of the Harding family were black. They offered a variety of stories with little consistency and no hard evidence; indeed, Chancellor and many of those he interviewed dealt in the worst stereotypes of black promiscuity or vague descriptions of physical appearance. Perhaps the only thing more confusing and inconclusive than Chancellor's evidence was the genealogy that the Republicans created to counter Chancellor's charges in an attempt to document Harding's "blue-eyed stock." Rather famously, Harding refused to comment on the "scandal," privately noting that for all he knew one of his ancestors might have "jumped the fence."

Harding's era was one of the lowest points in American history for race relations. In reaction against the Great Migration, whites rioted against blacks throughout northern communities (including Harding's own hometown of Marion, Ohio) and the recently-revived Ku Klux Klan rose in popularity after the release of Birth of a Nation. As president, Harding spoke out against the Klan and gave a speech in Birmingham that was surprisingly thoughtful for a man who was not supposed to be thoughtful. By modern standards, the speech was not particularly progressive, but he did call for qualified blacks to vote. Of course, they probably would have voted Republican but nonetheless it took courage in 1920 to stand in Alabama and say that. He set America's racial difficulties in a national and global context, noting that racial and ethnic tensions plagued the world in the wake of the Great War. Some academic historians have argued that Harding's address was the most significant speech on race given by any president since Grant. Indeed, a critical charge against Harding, according to Chancellor, was that Harding was sympathetic to the plight of black Americans. Despite the promise of his speech, African Americans were disappointed with Harding's record; in his short administration (two years and five months) Harding did little that benefited African Americans.

Was Harding the first black president? Only by the dubious standards of the one-drop rule used by Chancellor might Harding have been considered black and even this is not certain. Chancellor's research was biased, to say the least. Harding did not identify himself as black. His comment about not knowing if an ancestor had "jumped the fence" can hardly be considered a confession of mixed racial ancestry, although it is sometimes seen that way. The racist attacks of men like Chancellor and of some residents of Harding's hometown might have made him sensitive about race, but they hardly make him black. Indeed, the vagaries of these charges can be seen in Harding's relationship with his father-in-law. Amos Kling opposed his daughter's engagement to Warren Harding and, in a pattern that others would follow, tried to destroy him by spreading stories that Harding was a "nigger." When Harding later became successful, Kling came to accept him. Chancellor and others argued that Harding looked black, that he was "dark complected," but more frequently, observers noted that Harding looked senatorial, presidential, or Romanesque. These comparisons make it clear that the discussion of Harding's race took place within an arena marked by stereotypes and shifting standards.

Chancellor failed in his efforts to prevent Harding's election, but he succeeded in making the story about Harding's supposed racial ancestry an enduring part of Harding's legacy. The story became relevant during the 1960s in reaction to the Civil Rights Movement and the racial tensions of the time. In the Shadow of Blooming Grove (1968), his biography of Harding, Francis Russell drew upon Chancellor's work to make the possibility of African-American ancestry the "dark shadow" that haunted Harding in his professional and political life. J.A. Rogers's book, The Five Negro Presidents (1965), raised the idea embraced by some African-Americans that several presidents had black ancestry, Harding among them. Rogers's very brief book is best read as a critique of racial politics or a proclamation of racial pride but also relies on familiar sources. The most recent example of a black person claiming Harding as a black president is Marsha Stewart's Warren Harding U.S. President 29: Death by Blackness (2005). Stewart is a black woman who claims to be a distant relative of the president; the evidence of her claim is taken from Russell, Chancellor, and family lore.

Clearly, biography is important in selecting and selling a president. In 1920 Harding ran a front porch campaign that emphasized his Ohio boyhood and small-town background. It was, in a sense, an updating of the log cabin campaign complete with the cliche that any boy could grow up to be president. Clearly, however, the debate over race and the presidency shows that most Americans believed the myth was limited to what most white boys could do.

It is impossible to establish clear genealogies for every president. This is the case with Harding. While some black advocates might take pride in finding a "black president," if we have actually had any black presidents they assumed the office only by passing for white. Therefore, if Stewart's claim was substantiated it might prove interesting to historians and biographers, but it would not change the fact that in 1920 Americans did not believe they were electing a black man or even a man of mixed racial ancestry. In 1920 Chancellor's claims were seen as dangerous, even explosive, and he was fired from his job and had to flee the country as his book was suppressed by federal agents because of its content.

Today, Harding is best known as a failed president who lacked the intellectual energy to be president and who succumbed to his desire for pleasures of the flesh. This is the aspect of Harding's story that Francis Russell and other biographers found so compelling and that flowed from Russell's reliance on Chancellor's work. Russell implied that a link existed between Harding's personal weaknesses of character that led him to fail as president, and his "dark shadow." Chancellor had explicitly made this argument with the assumption that weak character and blackness went hand in hand.

In the end, it is better to examine what we can learn from the history of Harding's era than it is to speculate about the race of one of his ancestors. Beyond the obvious irony of Americans embracing claims that were originally intended to destroy Harding's political career, an additional irony is that the idea of the one drop rule once meant to ensure a clear definition of race now serves to undermine the idea of racial clarity.

Clearly, America has not become the Promised Land, but it is a measure of the progress that America has made since the 1920s that part of Barack Obama's appeal as a candidate is based upon the idea that he could become the first "black president," and that he is not running away from this aspect of his identity. Some have charged that he is not "black enough" because he lacks the historical and cultural experiences of most American blacks. Unlike the debates that swirled, and continue to swirl, around Harding, Obama's physical appearance and his personal biography make it clear that he is a black candidate even as he tries to transcend race. We should not consider Warren Harding to be the first black president. To do so would only diminish the importance of Americans knowingly electing a black person as president.

November 2008 response by Phillip Payne, courtesy of George Mason University's History News Network.

Sally Hemings and Eston Hemings-Jefferson

Sally Hemings (1773–1835)

Contributed by Virginia Scharff

Sally Hemings was an enslaved house servant owned by Thomas Jefferson, who, many historians believe, fathered at least six of Hemings's children. Born in 1773 at a Virginia plantation of John Wayles, Hemings became the property of Jefferson, whose wife, Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson, was likely Hemings's half-sister. Described by Thomas Jefferson Randolph as being "light colored and decidedly goodlooking," Hemings lived at Monticello and then, when Jefferson moved to Paris, France, at Eppington, an estate in Chesterfield County. In 1787, she accompanied Jefferson's daughter Mary to Paris, and lived there as a servant in the Jefferson household until 1789. After her return to Monticello, Hemings bore six children, whom her son Madison Hemings later claimed to have been fathered by Jefferson. Rumors to that effect had already circulated when, in 1802, James Thomson Callender, a journalist and by then a political enemy of Jefferson, accused the president of keeping one of his slaves "as his concubine." In an 1873 newspaper interview, Madison Hemings bluntly stated that Jefferson was his father, and the issue was revived a century later by the Jefferson biographer Fawn M. Brodie, becoming a social, political, and historical cause célèbre. Although many biographers initially doubted the possibility, most historians now agree that Jefferson probably fathered the Hemings children. After Jefferson's death in 1826, Sally Hemings lived in Charlottesville with her sons Madison and Eston Hemings. She died in 1835.

Early Years

Hemings was born enslaved in 1773 and belonged to John Wayles, a lawyer and planter originally from England. She was the daughter of the enslaved woman Elizabeth Hemings (known as Betty) and, according to Hemings family tradition, of Wayles himself. Sally Hemings's son Madison Hemings said that after the death of his third wife, in 1761, Wayles took Betty "as his concubine." In addition to her four to five children from previous relationships, Betty Hemings gave birth to six more by Wayles: Robert, born in 1762; James, born in 1765; Thenia, born in 1767; Critta, born in 1769; Peter, born in 1770; and Sally, whose given name, some historians contend, was Sarah. It is unclear whether Hemings was born before Wayles's death on May 28, 1773.

Thomas Jefferson

Wayles's will was proved on July 7, 1773, but the various issues involving his estate's property, which included the Hemings family, were not sorted out until January 1774. In the meantime, Betty Hemings and her younger children were sent to Guinea, the newly inherited Cumberland County home of Wayles's daughter Anne and her husband, Henry Skipwith. (They later renamed the plantation Hors du Monde.) The Hemingses, including Sally, eventually became the property of Anne Skipwith's half-sister Martha Wayles Skelton, who, on January 1, 1772, had married Thomas Jefferson. English common law that was then in effect in Virginia upheld the doctrine of coverture, which stipulated that absent a written agreement to the contrary, a married woman's property transferred to her husband. This meant that, beginning in 1774, the Hemingses were owned by Jefferson.

Like the other main beneficiaries, Jefferson, who served as one of the executors of John Wayles's estate, inherited large debts, including nearly £4,000 sterling owed to British mercantile firms. Jefferson immediately sold about half of his inherited land, or about 5,000 acres, but kept all the slaves until the mid-1780s and 1790s, when he sold a number of them to help repay the debt. Jefferson moved Betty Hemings and a number of her children, including Sally, from Guinea to his Elk Hill farm, in Goochland County, and then to Monticello, in Albemarle County.

The Jeffersons quickly installed the Hemings family in positions of responsibility at Monticello, presumably supplanting others. Betty Hemings may have supervised the household, Sally's older half-brother Martin Hemings served as butler, and Robert Hemings accompanied Thomas Jefferson to Philadelphia as his personal servant in 1775 for the Second Continental Congress.
Monticello and Eppington

Lieutenant Colonel Banastre

During the American Revolution (1775–1783), Sally Hemings remained at Monticello with her mother and siblings. Jefferson was elected governor in 1779, moving much of his household, including some of the older Hemings children, to Williamsburg and then to Richmond. Threatened by the advance of British troops under General Charles Cornwallis, Jefferson fled to Monticello in 1781, only to flee again just ahead of the arrival of British cavalry commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton. Eight-year-old Sally Hemings was among the slaves left behind at Monticello when Martin Hemings famously saw that the Jefferson silver was hidden and then faced down Tarleton's troops, who, surprisingly, left the place unmolested.

By 1782, Jefferson's wife, Martha Jefferson, had endured at least eight pregnancies with only two of her children surviving to adulthood: Martha (called Patsy), who was born in 1772, and Mary (called Polly, and later Maria), who was born in 1778. On May 8, 1782, she gave birth to Lucy Elizabeth. She then endured months of illness from complications relating to the pregnancy before dying on September 6. According to the Jefferson overseer Edmund Bacon, who was not present, on her deathbed Martha Jefferson gathered around her those closest to her: her half sisters Elizabeth Wayles Eppes and Anne Wayles Skipwith; her sister-in-law Martha Jefferson Carr; her two eldest daughters; Ursula Granger, the enslaved woman who had nursed her children; the women and girls of the Hemings family, including Sally Hemings; and, of course, Thomas Jefferson. Bacon related that Martha Jefferson told her husband that "she could not die happy, if she thought her four [actually, three] children were ever to have a stepmother brought over them." (No record of this promise has been found in the Jefferson, Randolph, or Eppes papers.) Hemings family tradition, which in this instance historians have been unable to verify, also notes that Martha Jefferson presented Betty Hemings or one of Hemings's daughters, possibly Sally, with a cast-iron handbell commonly used to summon servants.

In May 1784, the Confederation Congress appointed Jefferson to a position negotiating commercial treaties with several European nations and later named him to succeed Benjamin Franklin as minister to France, serving in Paris. After deciding to take his daughter Patsy and James Hemings with him to Europe, he made various provisions for his lands and the rest of his people, free and enslaved. Sally Hemings evidently accompanied Jefferson's daughters Polly and Lucy to Eppington, the Chesterfield County plantation of Francis Eppes and Elizabeth Wayles Eppes. In the autumn of 1784, while at Eppington, Lucy Jefferson and her first cousin Lucy Eppes both died of whooping cough.

When Thomas Jefferson learned of his daughter's death, he insisted that Polly join him in Paris, specifying the conditions by which she should travel. These included that Polly cross the ocean only under the protections, he wrote, of "some good lady passing from America to France, or even England," or, alternatively, "a careful gentleman" accompanied by "a careful negro woman" who would serve as Polly's nurse and maid. Finding such a person, as well as adhering to Jefferson's other equally detailed instructions, took years and was complicated by the fact that Polly had grown attached to her aunt Elizabeth Eppes and was furiously opposed to leaving Eppington.

On May 1, 1787, the Eppeses took Polly aboard the Robert, a ship bound for England, and played with her until she fell asleep. They then quietly disembarked, leaving Polly in the care of Sally Hemings, her sole companion for the voyage. The overseer Edmund Bacon's recollections suggest that the trip was a pivotal event in Hemings's life. "They crossed the ocean alone," he said. "I have often heard her tell about it."
London and Paris

Against Jefferson's wishes regarding his daughter's escort, Sally Hemings was neither a fully grown woman nor had she had smallpox. Her presence likely would not have been sufficient to protect Polly from the journey's many perils. Some historians have argued that the Eppeses must have judged Hemings mature enough to cope with a child who was prone to tantrums and who had strenuously resisted making the trip. Others have suggested that, more likely, the Eppeses entrusted Polly to the care of the Robert's captain, Andrew Ramsey.

Abigail Smith Adams
(Mrs. John Adams)

The Robert arrived in London on June 26, 1787, and Abigail Adams, whom Jefferson had recruited to receive the travelers, was appalled when Captain Ramsey delivered Polly ragged, hysterical, and furious at her father. Adams could hardly believe that the Eppeses had sent a young slave girl to accompany the child, although Adams did write Jefferson that Hemings seemed "fond" of Polly and "good naturd."

Adams also described Hemings, with an inferred dig at the decision to entrust Polly with such a person, as "quite a child," although she guessed Hemings to be "15 or 16," rather than her actual age of fourteen. It was not clear whether Hemings would stay with Polly or return to Virginia, and, according to Adams, Captain Ramsey suggested that Hemings would "be of so little Service that he had better carry her back with him." When Adrien Petit, Jefferson's French butler, arrived in London to collect Polly, Jefferson's daughter fell into a fresh round of fits at her father's not coming himself. Ultimately, however, both girls left for France with Jefferson's servant. Hemings, it is reasonable to conclude, was sent to Paris because Polly wanted her there.

Paris Street Plan

On July 15, 1787, Petit, Jefferson, and Hemings arrived in Paris, a city of about 600,000 people, its population far outnumbering all of Virginia's. It was a city of glittering wealth and miserable poverty, shuddering on the edge of revolution. While Monticello had been impressive, Jefferson's residence on the Rue de Berri, the Hôtel de Langeac, was magnificent, with gilded mirrors and gleaming floors. The streets outside teemed with noise, odor, traffic, danger, and delight unlike anything Hemings had ever known.

Jefferson immediately had Hemings inoculated for smallpox, leaving her in the care of a Dr. Sutton (likely Robert Sutton Jr.) at a house outside the city, where she was quarantined for forty days. After that, Hemings likely returned to the Hôtel de Langeac, serving as a house maid, waiting on Patsy and Polly when they were home from their convent boarding school, and learning the complex art of caring for fine fabrics. (Her brother James Hemings served as Jefferson's newly trained chef.) In January 1788, Hemings received a payment of twenty-four livres, plus twelve livres representing a New Year's tip, and then, beginning in November 1788, an occasional monthly payment of twelve livres. According to the historian Annette Gordon-Reed, this latter payment is in line with, or even a little above, what French chambermaids would have received. If that was Hemings's position within the house, then it may have brought her into contact with Jefferson inside his bedroom.
Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson

Madison Hemings Interview

In his recollections, which were the product of an interview given to the Ohio newspaper editor S. F. Wetmore in 1873, Madison Hemings said that sometime during Sally Hemings's stay in Paris, she "became Mr. Jefferson's concubine, and when he was called back home she was enceinte [pregnant] by him." Wetmore later interviewed another former Jefferson slave, Israel Gillette Jefferson, who insisted that "Sally Hemmings … was employed as his [Thomas Jefferson's] chamber-maid, and that Mr. Jefferson was on the most intimate terms with her; that, in fact, she was his concubine."

Sally Hemings would have been sixteen years old at the time Jefferson was preparing to leave Paris. "He desired to bring my mother back to Virginia with him," Madison Hemings told Wetmore, referring to Jefferson, "but she demurred. She was just beginning to understand the French language well, and in France she was free, while if she returned to Virginia she would be re-enslaved. So she refused to return with him. To induce her to do so he promised her extraordinary privileges, and made a solemn pledge that her children should be freed at the age of twenty-one years."

Had Hemings stayed in Paris, she would have owed her freedom to France's longstanding commitment to the so-called Freedom Principle, which dictated that slaves who set foot in France were free. Jefferson might have circumvented this tradition by registering the Hemings siblings with the government, but French law already banned the importation of black people, enslaved or free. (Anywhere from several hundred to a thousand blacks lived in Paris at the time.) To alert the authorities, then, was to risk either the Hemingses' deportation or their emancipation.

In any event, Sally Hemings chose Virginia over Paris, and slavery over freedom. She had reason to do so. She had lived through one revolution and likely saw the violent potential of another in the streets of Paris. Although beginning to learn the French language well, according to her son, she likely was not fluent and she lacked the security of permanent employment. Additionally, if she had stayed in France, Hemings would have been separated from the rest of her family. If she was pregnant, the support of that family would have been an important consideration. And, assuming Madison Hemings was correct, her master had promised to free her child and any subsequent children.

Jefferson, his two daughters, and both Hemingses left Paris on September 26, 1789. They traveled first to Le Havre, crossed the English Channel, and then embarked from England on October 22 aboard the American ship Clermont. They finally arrived at Monticello on December 23. Not long after that, Madison Hemings said, his mother "gave birth to a child, of whom Thomas Jefferson was the father. It lived but a short time." Although this child is not mentioned in Monticello records or family correspondence, those same papers reveal that Hemings gave birth to six more children: Harriet, who was born in 1795 and died two years later; Beverly, born in 1798; a daughter, born in December 1799, who died a year later; Harriet, born in 1801; Madison, born in 1805; and Eston, born in 1808.

Sally Hemings continued to live at Monticello, working as a house servant. According to her son Madison Hemings, "It was her duty, all her life which I can remember, up to the time of father's death to take care of his chamber and wardrobe, look after us children and do such light work as sewing, &c." With Jefferson's tacit consent, her children Beverly and Harriet Hemings left Monticello in 1822 and lived as white people. Jefferson freed Madison and Eston in his will.

In Jefferson's Virginia, sex between masters and slaves was commonplace. Such relations were never equal; were always, to one degree or another, exploitative; and they ranged from the violence of rape to long-term and affectionate common-law marriage. While Sally Hemings was in Paris, her half sister Mary Hemings entered into a relationship with a Charlottesville merchant, Thomas Bell. When Jefferson returned from France, Mary Hemings asked to be sold to Bell, with whom she now had two children, in addition to two older children. Jefferson granted her request, although not before reclaiming the older children and charging Bell for the years Mary had worked for him. Bell eventually freed his two children and bequeathed his property to them.

While master-slave relationships were tolerated locally, they could become a political liability. Evidence suggests that rumors had existed for many years about Jefferson and one of his slaves. In 1800, Jefferson, then vice president and a Democratic-Republican, ran for president against the incumbent, John Adams, a Federalist. In June of that year, William Rind, editor of the Virginia Federalist, claimed to have "damning proofs" of Jefferson's "depravity," though he did not provide details. The next year, another of Rind's newspapers, the Washington Federalist, accused a "Mr. J." of having had "a number of yellow children and that he is addicted to golden affections."

In 1802, James Thomson Callender, who once had been Jefferson's own hatchet man against the Federalists, turned on his former patron, now president. Having joined the staff of the Federalist newspaper the Richmond Recorder, Callender published a series of vitriolic items beginning on September 1, 1802, when he wrote: "It is well known that the man, whom it delighteth the people to honor, keeps and for many years past has kept, as his concubine, one of his slaves. Her name is sally … By this wench Sally, our president has had several children. There is not an individual in the neighbourhood of Charlottesville who does not believe the story, and not a few who know it." Callender also suggested that Hemings had an eldest child, named Tom, "whose features are said to bear a striking though sable resemblance to those of the president himself." An anonymous poem criticizing Jefferson, which had originally been published in July in the Philadelphia Port Folio, appeared on the same page as the article.

The Republican press rushed to deny the story, while Federalist editors gleefully ran with the tale, adding details: that Sally Hemings lived at Monticello and worked as a seamstress and housekeeper; that, according to one editorial, she was "an industrious and orderly creature in her behaviour"; and that she enjoyed good treatment and perhaps special privileges.

Jefferson never publicly commented on the charges. Neither did he ever send Sally Hemings or her children away from Monticello. He weathered the scandal and was resoundingly reelected to the presidency in 1804. But the rumors never went away. Two of his grandchildren, Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge and Thomas Jefferson Randolph, took pains to quash the tale. Randolph wrote, but apparently did not send, a letter to the editor of the Pike County Republican contradicting the account of Israel Jefferson. Coolidge, meanwhile, insisted that any relationship between her grandfather and a slave woman was unthinkable. "There are," she told her husband, "such things, after all, as moral impossibilities." She and her brother instead pointed to Jefferson's nephews, Peter Carr and Samuel Carr, as likely fathers of Sally Hemings's children.

Until the 1970s, most white historians and commentators accepted the Coolidge-Randolph version of the story. In addition to questioning Callender's motives, they attacked the Madison Hemings recollections as being the product of former abolitionists and quoted favorably a contemporary writer who argued that Hemings was like a "scrubby" horse whose owner exaggerated his pedigree. In addition, historians pointed to the absence in Jefferson's records of a slave named Tom born in 1790, although descendants of Thomas Woodson (ca. 1790–1879) have argued that he was Sally Hemings's first child.

In 1974, Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History by Fawn M. Brodie was published and included an extended argument on behalf of Jefferson's paternity. Other historians, including the biographer Dumas Malone and the editor of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Julian P. Boyd, insisted that in the absence of hard evidence, Jefferson must not be charged with what was then considered the sin (and even crime) of miscegenation. At the same time, the historian Winthrop Jordan established that Jefferson had been present at Monticello during the times that Sally Hemings would have conceived each of her children, and that she never conceived when Jefferson was absent.

In Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (1997), the legal historian Annette Gordon-Reed presented what amounts to a detailed brief arguing that Jefferson was most likely the father of Hemings's children. Then, the next year, Dr. Eugene A. Foster, et al., published the results of a genetic study concluding that "a Jefferson male" had fathered Eston Hemings. That study also ruled out the Carr brothers as possible fathers and found no link between the Jeffersons and Thomas Woodson. An investigation by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which has owned and operated Monticello since 1923, accepted in January 2000 that Jefferson was probably the father of Hemings's children.

The Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society was founded in 2000 to combat that Monticello report, which it described as "the product of shallow and shoddy scholarship." Some scholars and Jefferson defenders subsequently argued that Jefferson's brother Randolph Jefferson may have been the "Jefferson male" in question, pointing to the recollections of the former Monticello blacksmith Isaac Granger Jefferson. He recalled in 1847 that Randolph Jefferson "used to come out among black people, play the fiddle and dance half the night." Prior to 2000, no family members or historians had argued for Randolph Jefferson's paternity, and historians have found no solid evidence of his presence at Monticello during any of the known periods of conception. Most scholars now agree that Thomas Jefferson was the likely father of Sally Hemings's children.
Later Years

Thomas Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, leaving behind $100,000 in debts, the responsibility for which largely fell on his grandson Thomas Jefferson Randolph, who was the estate's executor. Nearly everything Jefferson owned went on the auction block—horses, cattle, land, Monticello, and more than 100 enslaved people—to pay off his creditors. His will freed five slaves, all of them members of the Hemings family and two of them, Madison and Eston Hemings, likely his sons. Sally Hemings was not freed; her ownership transferred to Martha Jefferson Randolph.

After Jefferson's death, and with Martha Randolph's approval, Hemings moved to Charlottesville, where she lived in a house owned by Madison and Eston Hemings. Although Hemings remained Randolph's legal property, she and her sons were listed in the 1833 parish censuses as "free people of color." In a version of her will written on April 18, 1834, Randolph requested that her heirs give Hemings her "time," a means of informally freeing her without forcing her to leave the state. Hemings died before Randolph, in 1835. She was buried in an unknown grave.

Time Line
January 1, 1772 - Thomas Jefferson and Martha Wayles Skelton marry at the Forest, the Wayles plantation in Charles City County.
September 27, 1772 - Martha Jefferson is born at Monticello to Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson and Thomas Jefferson.
ca. 1773 - Sally Hemings is born enslaved at the Forest, in Charles City County, likely the daughter of John Wayles, an English lawyer and planter, and Wayles's slave Elizabeth Hemings.
1773 - After the death of John Wayles, the Hemings family lives at Guinea, a Wayles plantation in Amelia County. When Thomas Jefferson becomes their owner, they are moved to Elk Hill, in Goochland County, and then to Monticello, in Albemarle County.
May 28, 1773 - John Wayles dies at the Forest, his plantation in Charles City County.
May 8, 1782 - Lucy Elizabeth Jefferson is born at Monticello to Thomas Jefferson and Martha Wayles Skelton.
September 6, 1782 - Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson dies at Monticello from complications related to the birth of her daughter Lucy.
May 1784 - The Confederation Congress appoints Thomas Jefferson to a position negotiating commercial treaties with several European nations.
ca. October 13, 1784 - Lucy Elizabeth Jefferson dies at Eppington, in Chesterfield County, of what one correspondent describes as the "evils of teething, Worms and Hooping Cough."
1785–1787 - Francis Eppes and Elizabeth Wayles Eppes search for a suitable person to accompany Thomas Jefferson's daughter Mary (known as Polly) to join her father in Paris, France.
May 1, 1787 - Mary Jefferson (known as Polly) and the enslaved servant Sally Hemings leave for England aboard the Robert.
Summer 1787 - The enslaved servant Sally Hemings is inoculated for smallpox. In the care of a Dr. Sutton (likely Robert Sutton Jr.), she spends forty days in a quarantine house outside of Paris, France.
June 26, 1787 - Abigail Adams informs Thomas Jefferson by letter of the arrival in London, England, of his daughter Mary and her enslaved servant, Sally Hemings.
July 15, 1787 - Mary Jefferson (known as Polly) and the enslaved servant Sally Hemings, escorted by Thomas Jefferson's butler, Adrien Petit, arrive in Paris, France.
January 1788 - Thomas Jefferson pays his enslaved house servant Sally Hemings twenty-four livres, plus twelve livres representing a New Year's tip.
November 1788 - Beginning this month and ending when she leaves Paris, France, Sally Hemings receives an occasional monthly payment of twelve livres from her master, Thomas Jefferson.
September 26, 1789 - Thomas Jefferson, his daughters Martha and Mary (later known as Maria), and the enslaved servants and siblings James and Sally Hemings leave Paris, France.
October 22, 1789 - Thomas Jefferson, his daughters Martha and Mary (later Maria), and the enslaved servants and siblings James and Sally Hemings leave England aboard the American ship Clermont.
December 23, 1789 - Thomas Jefferson, his daughters Martha and Mary (now known as Maria), and the enslaved servants and siblings James and Sally Hemings arrive at Monticello.
1790 - The enslaved servant Sally Hemings gives birth to a child who dies in infancy, according to the later recollections of her son Madison Hemings.
1795 - Harriet Hemings is born to the enslaved servant Sally Hemings at Monticello. Her reputed father is Thomas Jefferson. She dies in 1797.
1798 - Beverly Hemings is born to the enslaved servant Sally Hemings at Monticello. His reputed father is Thomas Jefferson.
December 1799 - A daughter is born to the enslaved servant Sally Hemings at Monticello. Her reputed father is Thomas Jefferson. She dies the next year.
June 23, 1800 - William Rind, editor of the Virginia Federalist, claims to have "damning proofs" of Thomas Jefferson's "depravity," but he does not provide details.
1801 - The Washington Federalist, edited by William Rind, accuses a "Mr. J.," presumably Thomas Jefferson, of having had "a number of yellow children and that he is addicted to golden affections."
1801 - Harriet Hemings is born to the enslaved servant Sally Hemings at Monticello. Her reputed father is Thomas Jefferson.
September 1, 1802 - In "The President, Again," published on September 1, 1802, in the Richmond Recorder, a Federalist newspaper, James Thomson Callender turns on his former patron, accusing U.S. president Thomas Jefferson of having fathered children with a slave named Sally (presumably Sally Hemings).
1805 - Madison Hemings is born to the enslaved servant Sally Hemings at Monticello. His reputed father is Thomas Jefferson.
1808 - Eston Hemings is born to the enslaved servant Sally Hemings at Monticello. His reputed father is Thomas Jefferson.
1822 - Siblings Beverly and Harriet Hemings leave Monticello with the tacit approval of their owner, Thomas Jefferson. Although Jefferson classifies them as runaways, his overseer Edmund Bacon later claims that Jefferson provided money and stage fare for Harriet Hemings.
1826 - After the death of Thomas Jefferson, ownership of Sally Hemings transfers to his daughter Martha Jefferson Randolph, who allows Hemings to live in Charlottesville with her two sons.
July 4, 1826 - Thomas Jefferson dies at Monticello.
April 18, 1834 - In Washington, a seriously ill Martha Jefferson Randolph dictates a brief will to her daughter Virginia Randolph Trist. She emancipates two slaves and gives three others, including Sally Hemings, their de facto freedom. She also insists that Thomas Jefferson was not the father of Sally Hemings's light-skinned children.
1835 - Sally Hemings dies in Charlottesville. The location of her grave is unknown.
March 13, 1873 - In "Life Among the Lowly, No. 1," published in the Pike County Republican, Madison Hemings writes about his father, Thomas Jefferson, his mother, Sally Hemings, and his enslaved upbringing at Monticello.
December 25, 1873 - In "Life Among the Lowly, No. 3," published in the Pike County Republican, Israel Jefferson writes about his enslaved upbringing at Thomas Jefferson's plantation Monticello.
1974 - Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History by Fawn M. Brodie is published and includes an extended argument on behalf of Thomas Jefferson's paternity of Sally Hemings's children.
1997 - Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy by Annette Gordon-Reed is published. It presents what amounts to a detailed brief arguing that Thomas Jefferson mostly likely fathered the children of his slave Sally Hemings.
November 5, 1998 - "Jefferson Fathered Slave's Last Child" is published in Nature magazine. It details the results of a genetic study by Dr. Eugene A. Foster concluding that "a Jefferson male"—although not necessarily Thomas Jefferson—had fathered Eston Hemings.
January 26, 2000 - The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, which has owned and operated Monticello since 1923, releases the findings of an investigation concluding that Thomas Jefferson was probably the father of Sally Hemings's children.
2000 - The Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society is founded in Charlottesville, in part to combat a report by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation that concluded Jefferson was probably the father of Sally Hemings's children.
Categories African American History Women's History Slavery Political Issues and Controversies Revolution and Early Republic (1763–1823)
Further Reading
Bear, James A., Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton, eds. Jefferson's Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1997.
Bear, James A., Jr. Jefferson at Monticello: Recollections of a Monticello Slave and of a Monticello Overseer. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1995.
Brodie, Fawn M. Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History. New York: W. W. Norton, 1974.
Coates, Eyler Robert, Sr., ed. The Jefferson-Hemings Myth: An American Travesty. Charlottesville, Virginia: Jefferson Editions, 2001.
Durey, Michael. With the Hammer of Truth: James Thomson Callender and America's Early National Heroes. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1990.
Gordon-Reed, Annette. The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family. New York: W. W. Norton, 2008.
Gordon-Reed, Annette. Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1997.
Leary, Helen F. M. "Sally Hemings's Children: A Genealogical Analysis of the Evidence." National Genealogical Quarterly 89 (2001): 165–207.
Lewis, Jan Ellen and Peter S. Onuf. Sally Hemings & Thomas Jefferson: History, Memory, and Civic Culture. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1999.
"Report of the Research Committee on Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings." Charlottesville, Virginia: The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, 2000.
Rothman, Joshua D. Notorious in the Neighborhood: Sex and Families across the Color Line in Virginia, 1787–1861. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.
Scharff, Virginia. The Women Jefferson Loved. New York: Harper, 2010.
Stanton, Lucia. Free Some Day: The African-American Families of Monticello. Charlottesville, Virginia: The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, 2000.
Stanton, Lucia. "Those Who Labor for My Happiness": Slavery at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012.
Wiencek, Henry. Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2012.
Cite This Entry
APA Citation:

Scharff, V. (2012, December 6). Sally Hemings (1773–1835). Retrieved March 28, 2013, from Encyclopedia Virginia:
MLA Citation:

Scharff, Virginia. "Sally Hemings (1773–1835)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Ed. Brendan Wolfe. 28 Mar. 2013. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. 6 Dec. 2012 <>.

First published: November 20, 2012 | Last modified: December 6, 2012

Contributed by Virginia Scharff, a professor of history and director of the Center for the Southwest at the University of New Mexico.