Thomas Jefferson and Slavery

By Sue Willis, CRRL Staff

From the Central Rappahannock Regional Library

Notes on the State of Virginia by Thomas Jefferson.
The only book that Jefferson wrote was undertaken as a matter-of-fact commentary on the resources and institutions of Virginia and developed into one of the more thoughtful books of the time. His cherished goals were the emancipation of slavery in Virginia and the reformation of Virginia's constitution. However, some of the ideas in his Notes are in opposition to these goals, giving creedence to Jefferson's reputation as a conflicted man. It should be noted that the Notes were written in 1781, and Jefferson did try to improve the slaves' lot before his death in 1826.

The Paris Years of Thomas Jefferson by William Howard Adams.
As envoy for the new nation, Jefferson found great intellectual stimulation among the Parisian intellectuals during his five years there which was to translate into an enlightened idealism for the United States. Drawn from original source material and includes references to the women in Jefferson's life.

The Planters of Colonial Virginia by Thomas J. Wertenbaker.
Discussion of the disastrous effects of importation of slaves on white migration from Europe and the existing yeoman class in Virginia.

Slave Laws in Virginia by Philip J. Schwarz.
Covers slaves and capital punishment in Virginia, "the full and perfect enforcement of our rights", fugitive slaves and the laws of Virginia, and Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson: A View from the Mountain.
This video tells the story of one of America's most complex figures and his personal and public struggle which came to define our nation. Also examines his possible relationship with a Monticello slave.

Wolf by the Ears by Ann Rinaldi.
The intense, provocative, and fictional story of a slave, Harriet Hemings, who some believe was the daughter of Thomas Jefferson, is brought to life by a skillful and imaginative author.

The Wolf by the Ears: Thomas Jefferson and Slavery by John Chester Miller.
Chapters include Slaves and Revolution in Virginia, Racial Inferiority, Blacks and Indians, Jefferson as a Slavemaster, and Sally Hemings.

Slavery and Jeffersonian Virginia by Robert McColley.
Recommended by the University of Virginia's guide to Afro-American sources in Virginia as the major work on its period.

Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy by Annette Gordon-Reed.
Annette Gordon-Reed, a professor of law, doesn't take a position for or against the proposition that Sally and Jefferson had a loving relationship. However, Gordon-Reed has strong evidence that they could have had a long relationship.

Web Sites

Slavery and Thomas Jefferson
When Jefferson was born in 1743, slavery had already existed in Virginia for nearly 75 years. Included with the commentary is a comprehensive annotated bibliography of Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson
Web sites to support PBS' films of Thomas Jefferson's life include Jefferson's Blood and the Ken Burns film, Thomas Jefferson .

The Thomas Jefferson Papers
The complete Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress consist of approximately 27,000 documents and are the largest collection or his documents in the world. Reuters Foundation funded this project. Indexes need to be used to find relevant sites. The Central Rappahannock Regional Library owns many volumes of these papers in book form.

Words Fitly Spoken: Thomas Jefferson, Slavery, and Sally Hemings
This essay written by David Post at the Temple University Law School upholds Jefferson's reputation even giving that he owned a chattel slave. The final irony is that Jefferson did more to end slavery in the United States than anyone else in American history except for Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, said, "I am sustained by Mr. Jefferson."

This webliography accompanied the Lunch With History lecture "Thomas Jefferson & Slavery," presented by William B. Crawley, Jr., Professor of History, Mary Washington College, on February 19, 2003.