The Thomas Jefferson Affair

Thomas Jefferson was one of the founding fathers of the American nation. He drafted the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and went on to become the third American President in 1801. His several achievements included the Louisiana Purchase of 1806 which opened the way for settlement west of the Mississippi. He was both a philosopher and a politician with liberal inclinations and an advocate of democracy.

Even so, Jefferson kept a large number of slaves on his estate at Monticello in Virginia. One of these was Sally Hemings, the half-sister of Jefferson's late wife Martha. It was rumoured from the start that Jefferson was the father of Sally Heming's eight children, a claim vehemently denied at the time and, for the next two hundred years by supporters keen to uphold Jefferson's good name, including the Jefferson Society and the trustees of the Monticello estate. ​

The controversy ended after Y-chromosome DNA from a descendant of Jefferson's male line, through his paternal uncle, and a descendant of Sally's son Eston Hemings were shown to match exactly. Despite the fears of the Jefferson Society his reputation did not suffer as a result of the disclosure.