Sally Hemmings’ slave quarters discovered at Monticello – Matthew Rozsa July 3 2017

Thomas Jefferson’s most famous slave is believed by many to have given birth to six of his children

A new chapter in the story of America’s third president, Thomas Jefferson, has been quite literally discovered.

Archaeologists at Jefferson’s estate Monticello have discovered the living quarters of his slave Sally Hemmings, according to a report by NBC News.

Architectural historian Gardiner Hallock, who works for Monticello, told NBC News that “this discovery gives us a sense of how enslaved people were living. Some of Sally’s children may have been born in this room. It’s important because it shows Sally as a human being — a mother, daughter, and sister — and brings out the relationships in her life.”

It is widely believed that Jefferson engaged in a sexual relationship with Hemmings and historians fiercely debate whether Jefferson fathered six of her known children. Although the jury is still out as to whether Jefferson fathered any children with Hemmings, a DNA test in 1998 revealed that a man who was previously believed to be the white father of Hemmings’ children did not have a genetic connection to at least one of their ancestors, while a male from the Jefferson line did. While this does not prove Jefferson’s paternity, it does make that more likely.

Indeed, the National Genealogical Society concluded near the beginning of the 2000s that “the chain of evidence securely fastens Sally Hemings’ children to their father Thomas Jefferson.”

Monticello spokeswoman Mia Magruder Dammann told NBCBLK that “for the first time at Monticello we have a physical space dedicated to Sally Hemings and her life. It’s significant because it connects the entire African American arch at Monticello.”

Library of Congress: How tweet it isn’t – By NANCY SCOLA 7/11/15 5:09 PM EDT

More than five years on, the library’s Twitter archive project is in limbo — with no end in sight.

In the spring of 2010, the Library of Congress announced it was taking a big stride toward preserving the nation’s increasingly digital heritage — by acquiring Twitter’s entire archive of tweets and planning to make it all available to researchers.

“How Tweet It Is!” the library said in an exuberant blog post, which generated fanfare from tech sites, the mainstream medialibrarian blogs and, of course, Twitter. For the two-century-old library, it was evidence that even an institution that traces its heritage to John Adams and Thomas Jefferson can break new ground in social media.

But more than five years later, the project is in limbo. The library is still grappling with how to manage an archive that amounts to something like half a trillion tweets. And the researchers are still waiting.

“At this time, no date has been set for it to be opened,” library spokeswoman Gayle Osterberg said by email.

The archive’s fate is yet another example of the difficulty of safeguarding the historical records of an era when people communicate using easily deletable emails, websites that can be taken down in seconds and transient tweets, Vines and Snaps. But the library’s critics also see it as a cautionary tale from the 28-year tenure of retiring Librarian of Congress James Billington.

During Billington’s time in office, say critics, the library has espoused grand technological ambitions but didn’t back them up with the planning, budget or nuts-and-bolts needed to turn them from buzzy news releases to tangible accomplishments. It has also repeatedly faced criticism for its management of the U.S. Copyright Office, which has been drawn into numerous controversies on issues involving software, cellphones and online music streaming.

“Billington did many wonderful things, but understanding technology isn’t one of them,” said Silicon Valley Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren. His retirement, set for January, has set off a debate over how the organization can establish itself as a library for the modern era, from better digitizing its book collection to making the Copyright Office’s records more searchable.

A spokesperson said Billington was not available for comment. But in response to deeply critical Government Accountability Office report in March about the library’s tech shortcomings, he said he was taking steps to “fully realize the possibilities of the digital era,” including plans to hire a chief information officer by September; the library has not had a permanent CIO since 2012.

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Politics and the Pulpit in America – By James Morone July/August 2015 Issue

Americans have been arguing about the role of religion in government since the earliest days of the republic. In 1789, soon after taking office, President George Washington declared a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer.” God had bestowed a republican government on the United States, said Washington, and the nation ought to express its gratitude. Just 12 years later, President Thomas Jefferson abruptly canceled the ritual. The First Amendment, explained Jefferson, erected a “wall of separation between church and state.”Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at Jul 5, 2015 4.38

Jefferson’s wall could have used a better contractor. Today, there is hardly an aspect of American political life untouched by religion. God seems to be everywhere. The nation’s official motto is “In God We Trust.” The phrase is printed on the nation’s money, affixed behind the Speaker’s dais in the House of Representatives, and engraved over the entrance to the Senate. The Pledge of Allegiance declares a nation “under God,” and—sorry, Jefferson—the National Day of Prayer is back (the first Thursday in May); there is even a National Prayer Breakfast (the first Thursday in February). When they address the nation, U.S. presidents almost always conclude with a request that “God bless America.”

All this religiosity isn’t exactly ecumenical: a majority of Americans consider the United States a “Christian nation.” In his fine new book, Kevin Kruse declares that, whatever the public may think today, the founders had no intention of establishing a religious (much less a Christian) republic. For the most part, they agreed with Jefferson and believed in separating church and state.

What, then, explains the religiosity of American politics? Kruse traces its origins back to the 1930s. Conservative business leaders had trouble gaining traction against the New Deal and eventually discovered that moral claims generated more popular enthusiasm than calling for free markets. The business leaders funded a national movement led by religious figures such as James Fifield, Jr., a Congregational minister who preached that the New Deal, with its emphasis on collective responsibility, had introduced a “pagan statism.” Together, these men of the world and men of the cloth engineered a spiritual revival designed to shake Americans free from creeping collectivism.

Whatever the American public may think today, the founders had no intention of establishing a religious (much less a Christian) republic.

This pro-business, anticommunist, politicized Christianity seemed to find its political champion when Dwight Eisenhower won the presidency in 1952. But Eisenhower recast the movement (Kruse implies he hijacked it) as a more ecumenical, all-American consensus that would unite the nation in the Cold War struggle against the godless Soviet Union. Eisenhower set the agenda, and Congress—Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals—eagerly followed. Many of the most familiar manifestations of religion in government—the legislatively mandated allusions to God in the country’s official motto, on its money, and in its Pledge of Allegiance—emerged during the Eisenhower era.

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This Land Is Their Land – By Claudio Saunt

The Braves, Chiefs, and Washington NFL team all play on land seized from American Indians.

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Between 1776 and the present, the United States dispossessed Indians of more than 1.5 billion acres, nearly an eighth of the habitable world. For most of that same period, the native population was in a free fall, dropping from perhaps 1.5 million people when Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence to a low of 237,000 in 1900. After the native population and its land base bottomed out, American sports teams began adopting Indian-themed names.

Today, the Braves, Indians, Blackhawks, Seminoles, Chiefs, and the Washington NFL team claim to honor native peoples with iconography such asChief Wahoo, arrowheads, and tomahawks. It is easy to assert that the name of your favorite team expresses solidarity with the survivors of the long, sordid history of Indian dispossession. But what if sports lore included the specifics of how the U.S. acquired the land below your team’s home field?

Atlanta Braves fans can recite Jason Heyward’s batting average and on-base percentage. Perhaps they should also know that Turner Field sits on land ceded in 1821 by William McIntosh, the son of a Scottish trader and a Creek Indian woman. McIntosh was irredeemably corrupt, and he had a hand in selling almost 20,000 square miles—fully one-third of the state of Georgia—to the U.S. against the will of most Creek leaders.

When the Braves leave Turner Field behind in a few years for Cobb County’s greener pastures, they will settle on land again ceded by McIntosh in another duplicitous treaty. In 1825, as punishment for McIntosh’s treasonous role in the land cessions, Creek braves set fire to his house and executed him when he emerged from the flames. Nonetheless, Creek title in Georgia was almost entirely extinguished, and the state then turned its attention to the Cherokees, forcing them in 1838 to walk the infamous Trail of Tears west to join the Creeks in Indian Territory (Oklahoma).

When the Cleveland Indians acquired their native nickname in 1915, fans delighted in the racist caricatures that came along with it—see this cartoon from the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. A century later, Cleveland’s stadium sits on territory that once belonged to Algonquin peoples.

In 1791, an Algonquin confederacy handed the U.S. Army one of its worst defeats ever by surprising Gen. Arthur St. Clair and killing more than 800 of his 1,300 badly trained soldiers. The victory was short-lived. Three years later, President Washington sent “Mad” Anthony Wayne to Ohio to conquer the region’s native peoples. After the Algonquins’ defeat, they signed the Treaty of Greenville, relinquishing two-thirds of the state of Ohio and ushering in an era of despair for many Indians in the region.

The history behind the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks is no more heartening. The team sports a cartoon-like image of the resolute Sauk leader who fought unsuccessfully against his people’s removal from western Illinois in the 1830s. (Compare Black Hawk’s 1833 portrait to his profile on Blackhawks jerseys.) But the hockey team doesn’t play on Sauk land.


This Machine Can Tell Whether You’re Liberal or Conservative – By Chris Mooney | Fri Apr. 4, 2014 6:39 AM PDT

John Hibbing and his colleagues are pioneering research on the physiological underpinnings of political ideology.


Eye-tracking device University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Thomas Jefferson was a smart dude. And in one of his letters to John Adams, dated June 27, 1813, Jefferson made an observation about the nature of politics that science is only now, two centuries later, beginning to confirm. “The same political parties which now agitate the United States, have existed through all time,” wrote Jefferson. “The terms of Whig and Tory belong to natural, as well as to civil history,” he later added. “They denote the temper and constitution of mind of different individuals.”

Tories were the British conservatives of Jefferson’s day, and Whigs were the British liberals. What Jefferson was saying, then, was that whether you call yourself a Whig or a Tory has as much to do with your psychology or disposition as it has to do with your ideas. At the same time, Jefferson was also suggesting that there’s something pretty fundamental and basic about Whigs (liberals) and Tories (conservatives), such that the two basic political factions seem to appear again and again in the world, and have for “all time.”

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Jefferson didn’t have access to today’s scientific machinery—eye tracker devicesskin conductance sensors, and so on. Yet these very technologies are now being used to reaffirm his insight. At the center of the research are many scholars working at the intersection of psychology, biology, and politics, but one leader in the field is John Hibbing, a political scientist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln whose “Political Physiology Laboratory” has been producing some pretty stunning results.

“We know that liberals and conservatives are really deeply different on a variety of things,” Hibbing explains on the latest episode of the Inquiring Minds podcast (stream above). “It runs from their tastes, to their cognitive patterns—how they think about things, what they pay attention to—to their physical reactions. We can measure their sympathetic nervous systems, which is the fight-or-flight system. And liberals and conservatives tend to respond very differently.”


The Mount Rushmore Fight Club: A History of Hating Presidents, from Washington to Obama – FEBRUARY 17 2014

We may think our modern partisans are nasty, but what about the critics who called Washington ‘Machiavellian,’ Jefferson a ‘howling atheist,’ and Lincoln an ‘ape-like imbecile?’

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Perspective is the thing we have least of in our politics. And as the USA celebrates Presidents’ Day, it is tempting to lament the lack of respect given to the Oval Office these days—especially its current occupant.

Politics ain’t beanbag, but Barack Obama has been subjected what certainly seems like an unusual amount of paranoid projection from high places during his five years in office. In addition to the daily drumbeat from right wing talk radio and cable television, by the end of the 2012 election, no less than 89 books had been published with little purpose other that to propagate a monstrous image of the president.  Among their titles were The Great Destroyer: Barack Obama’s War on the RepublicTrickle Down TyrannyTo Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular Socialist Machine; and The Blueprint: Obama’s Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency. The themes are often carried forward by conservative members of congress trying to play to the base. During the State of the Union in January Texas representative Randy Weber tweeted that the president was a “socialist dictator,” while Senator Ted Cruz summed up hisWall Street Journal op-ed with this tweet: “In the nation’s history, there is simply no precedent for an American president so wantonly ignoring federal law.”

There is, however, plenty of precedent for presidents being accused of tyranny, dictatorship and a determination to trample on the Constitution.

Let’s start with a quick survey of the quartet of presidential greats enshrined in Mount Rushmore.

Today’s hyper-partisan appeals to ancient anxieties will not look any better in the rearview mirror of history than the unhinged attacks on the Mount Rushmore crew.

The original Founding Father, George Washington, is remembered as enduring example of character and virtue—and so we often assume that he was similarly respected by contemporary countrymen. But when our first president presided over the shaky young republic, newspapers like the Aurora (edited by Benjamin Franklin’s grandson) obsessively attacked him, calling on Washington to abruptly resign the office while declaring that “that the mask of political hypocrisy has been alike worn by Caesar, a Cromwell and a Washington.” Washington’s one-time ally Thomas Paine turned on him in vicious fashion after the Jay Treaty with Great Britain, writing, “the world will be puzzled to decide whether you are an apostate or an imposter; whether you have abandoned good principles or whether you ever had any.” Pamphlets published by early partisan opponents like William Duane denounced Washington’s “tyrannical act,” ‘Machiavellian policy,’ and “monarchical privilege.” The former general of the Continental Army was unused to being attacked in the press with such impunity, and he proved to be surprisingly thin-skinned, complaining in one last letter to Thomas Jefferson that he was being slandered “in such an exaggerated, and indecent terms as scarcely be applied to a Nero; a notorious defaulter; or even to a common pickpocket.”

One space over on Mount Rushmore, Thomas Jefferson attacked political opponents through the partisan press and was attacked in return with accusations of being an “infidel” and a “howling atheist.” The Federalist Gazette of the United States framed the election this way: “the only question to be asked by every American, laying his hand on his heart, is ‘shall I continue in allegiance to God—and a religious president; or impiously declare for Jefferson—and no God!”  After Jefferson’s election, opponents tried to undo the election by pushing for impeachment, arguing, “that self-exalted tyrant shall be hurled headlong from his political zenith to dwell with Jacobins and devils in the pit.”

The now-sainted Abraham Lincoln was subject to particularly vicious attacks while presiding over the Civil War. “Confederates called Lincoln a ‘tyrant,’ a ‘fiend,’ and a ‘monster,’” recounts Don E. Fehrenbacher in his essay “The Anti-Lincoln Tradition.” “In speeches, sermons, and songs, in books, magazines, newspapers, pamphlets, and broadsides, they also portrayed him as a simpleton, a buffoon, a drunkard, a libertine, a physical coward, and a pornographic story-teller.”

In a drunken speech on the Senate floor, Delaware’s Democratic senator Willard Saulsbury declared, “I never did see or converse with such a weak and imbecile a man; the weakest man I ever knew in high place. If I wanted to paint a despot, a man perfectly regardless of every constitutional right of the people, I would paint the hideous ape-like form of Abraham Lincoln.” A copperhead Wisconsin newspaper editor named Marcus M. Pomeroy wrote that Lincoln was a “but the fungus from the corrupt womb of bigotry and fanaticism” and a “worse tyrant and more inhuman butcher than has existed since the days of Nero.” With the election of 1864 looming, Pomeroy wrote, “The man who votes for Lincoln now is a traitor and murderer. … And if he is elected to misgovern for another four years, we trust some bold hand will pierce his heart with dagger point for the public good.”

Fast-forward ahead to the final member of the Mount Rushmore quartet, Teddy Roosevelt, and the accusation of subverting the Constitution was common, at pace with his unprecedented 1,081 executive orders (compared to Obama’s 168 to date). On Wall Street, the famed Trust Buster’s reputation was lower than a stock in freefall. Biographer Edmund Morris recounts how “rumors that [T.R.] was an alcoholic had strengthened into reports that he was insane.”

And so it goes. In more recent years we have seen the profitable 1990s cottage industry of hating Bill and Hillary Clinton, which summoned up a vast array of conspiracies including secret communist allegiances, drug-dealing and murder. (Get ready for a massive repackaging of these once urgent absurdities if Hillary runs for president). The Bush Derangement Syndrome of the last decade saw liberal protesters echoing the sentiments expressed by legendary, musician and activist Harry Belafonte who called the president “the greatest tyrant in the world, the greatest terrorist in the world” while standing alongside Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.

Some folks will look at this record of unhinged insults and see the ugly beauty of democracy—the right to criticize public figures regardless of remote accuracy. Freedom of the press and freedom of speech are indeed sacred things. But others will look at the historic record of hate and slander and conveniently find excuses for their own political vitriol, wrapping partisan bile up in high-minded historic parallels. The real takeaway consists of this: today’s hyper-partisan appeals to ancient anxieties will not look any better in the rearview mirror of history than the unhinged attacks on the Mount Rushmore crew.

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