The debate over the affair between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings rarely risesabove the question of ",Did they or didn't they?", But lost in the argument over theexistence of such a relationship are equally urgent questions about a history that is more complex,both sexually and culturally, than most of us realize. Mongrel Nation seeks touncover this complexity, as well as the reasons it is so often obscured. Clarence Walker contends that the relationship between Jefferson andHemings must be seen not in isolation but in the broader context of interracial affairs within theplantation complex. Viewed from this perspective, the relationship was not unusual or aberrant butwas fairly typical. For many, this is a disturbing realization, because it forces us to abandon theidea of American exceptionalism and re-examine slavery in America as part of a long, globalhistory of slaveholders frequently crossing the color line.More thanmany other societies--and despite our obvious mixed-race population--our nationhas displayed particular reluctance to acknowledge this dynamic. In a country where, as early as1662, interracial sex was already punishable by law, an understanding of the Hemings-Jeffersonrelationship has consistently met with resistance. From Jefferson's time to our own, thegeneral public denied--or remained oblivious to--the possibility of the affair. Historians, too, dismissed the idea, even when confronted with compelling arguments by fellowscholars. It took the DNA findings of 1998 to persuade many (although, to this day, doubtersremain). The refusal to admit the likelihood of this union between master and slave stems,of course, from Jefferson's symbolic significance as a Founding Father. The president'sapologists, both before and after the DNA findings, have constructed an iconic Jefferson that tellsus more about their own beliefs--and the often alarming demands of thosebeliefs--than it does about the interaction between slave owners and slaves. Much more thana search for the facts about two individuals, the debate over Jefferson and Hemings is emblematic oftensions in our society between competing conceptions of race and of our nation.
Weiterlesen weniger lesen