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Paranormal Reports from Monticello By: Rebecca L. McMurry and James F. McMurry, Jr.
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Hemingses of Monticello
By Annette Gordon-Reed
W. W. Norton & Company

With a heavy pre-release advertising campaign, Annette Gordon-Reed’s magnum opus, The Hemingses of Monticello, was launched by her publisher W. W. Norton in September 2008. What followed was an extensive book-tour to sell this “non-fiction” tome of 798 pages of garbled facts and half-truths. It expands for page after page on the tiniest shreds of history. It seems clear that Ms. Gordon-Reed has been getting paranormal help. One reviewer claimed Ms. Gordon-Reed was able to “make silent records speak.” She is an expert at literary slight of hand—taking an innocent fact and spinning it to prop up the insupportable.

In an interview by Publisher’s Weekly in October 2001, she announced her contract to do a book on the Hemings family.  Gordon-Reed noted there was so little material available that the book couldn’t be a biography of Sally Hemings, but would “follow a couple of the descendants” and “probably stick to the 19th century.”  Seven years later her book is a shameless exploitation of a handful of well-known and lesser known historical figures who have become in her own words “vehicles” to politically condemn America from the beginning as racist, sexist and classist.  The reader is forced to view American history through the distorted lens of the author.  The “moral” of her story is that “white supremacy” and its offspring “oppression” created the “down-right mean” country that we live in. She makes the incredible statement that of all the degradations suffered by “workers” and women in the world today—“none of these conditions approach the systematic degradation and violence of American slavery sanctioned by state and church.” Torture and death camps in Dachau, the Gulags, the killing fields of Cambodia or Darfur are not excepted by her view. This single statement is reason enough to eschew this volume.

The book is neither a user friendly travel guide to the past, nor is it helpful to researchers who have in fact studied the “origins” of the Hemings family and the “immigrant” John Wayles, father of Thomas Jefferson’s wife who Gordon-Reed alleges is the father of Sally Hemings and several of her siblings. She takes no pains to go into any more depth of research than our book published in 2002 which described in detail the life of John Wayles and provided documented material on the Hemings family origins. Borrowing heavily as she followed our steps she vigorously argued, while failing to acknowledge us as her mystery opponents.

The back cover of this book has praising blurbs from Edmund S. Morgan, Joseph J. Ellis, David Levering Lewis, David W. Blight, Peter Onuf, and John Hope Franklin. In addition, Dr. and Mrs. Edmund Morgan had a lengthy, praise-filled article on the book in the New York Review of Books. Professor Eric Foner of Columbia University, although neither quoted nor featured in Gordon-Reed’s book, nevertheless graciously endorses the book in the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune.  He does warn the reader that she is repetitious and that the book is too long. However, he fails to warn the reader that she is repetitious in her condemnation of white people. Numerous reviews of the book have appeared in the “MainStreamMedia” with similar praise and no criticism of the length, repetition, or racist rants. At two hundred pages, it may have been a bad book still, but it would have been a little more tolerable. With the media buzz that has been created, you can expect the book in your local public library.

To best understand Gordon-Reed, one should read David Horowitz’s 2000 book, Hating Whitey—and other Progressive Causes first.  If you think Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Annette Gordon-Reed are oddball and not representative of a slice of America today, you must read Hating Whitey soon. America has been under attack for years by the radical left who have used the politics of victimization to denigrate and condemn Western Civilization.

A country that has been exceptional for the opportunity that has been offered to all who are willing to work and assimilate deserves a better family story.

History written in the manner of The Hemingses of Monticello is not about understanding ordinary people who lived long ago. It is all about the radical politicization of history and the ingratitude of a middle-class woman who has done very well in this “oppressive” society.

Rebecca L. McMurry and James F. McMurry, Jr., are authors of Anatomy of a Scandal: Thomas Jefferson and the SALLY Story (White Mane: Shippensburg, PA, 2002).

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