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Desc:'There are such things as moral impossibilities.'
Category:Educational, Crime
Tags:dna, thomas jefferson, sally hemmings, the pursuit of happiness
Submitted:John Holmes Motherfucker
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Comment count is 5
The Mothership - 2017-06-19
It's called 'bias'. Professional historians are not immune to it. I speak as a professional historian. It merely explains this, it does not excuse it.

These historians will go down in history as being on the wrong side of it, but let us remember well that at this time (1998) in universities Sally Hemmings was widely acknowledged as Jefferson's lover, and taught as such in American history classes (at least at the University of Washington, where I was taught).

One can always find a few like these ones, living in the past, clinging to an outdated perspective.
John Holmes Motherfucker - 2017-06-19
Well, they didn't know, so they had to guess. Just because a historian in 1998 happened to get it right, it doesn't mean that the answer didn't come out of some bias.

There was a documentary from 2010 about Richard III. It might still be on youtube. A whole lot of it was devoted to the evidence that the historical background had been changed after Richard's death to indiate that he had a hunchback. Even the most familiar contemporary painting of Richard showed signs of being altered to a hunchback. So, in 2010, the assumption was that Richard had never had scoleosis, and that it was all a propaganda ploy dreamed up by the Tudors. It was a reasonable assumption. When the records have been altered, it's natural to assume mischief on the part of the alterers. .

But then, in 2012, they found Richard's grave. If you've seen any of the photos of the bones, it couldn't be clearer. Richard's scoleosis was no mere propaganda ploy. If there was a bias at work here, I suppose it may have been the bias of modern historians to assume that the medieval historians were less interested in the truth than they were. No one expected to find anyone CORRECTING the historical record. Of course, the best propaganda is the propaganda that's true. For a Tudor audience, the idea of Richard the deformed hunchback nicely dovetailed with the story of Richard the sinister murderer of the young princes in the tower, which might explain why it was left out of the record when Richard was King.

These mysteries about Thomas Jefferson and Richard III are the exception because DNA has answered them definitively. That so many people got them wrong ought to be a cautionary tale.

Of course, a lot of what we're seeing here is Ken Burns' approach to this question. If he wanted to put an academic historian in there who was willing to say. "He probably fucked her.", I'm sure he could have found one. But then his Jefferson documentary would have gotten lost in the weeds. I think Burns does of handlingthis question with just the right amount of tact. The Hemmings oral history is not brushed over. The black historian who gets the last word really has the truest answer for the time. IT DOESN'T MATTER IF HE FUCKED HER. HE COULD HAVE. BECAUSE HE OWNED HER.

Back then, it wasn't considered rape. I suppose it might have been considered "the pursuit of happiness". But rape is what it was.

rural - 2017-06-20
You and I are medievalists- we make mistakes more egregious than this every day because a scribe skipped a line while copying. And most of the time we'll never know.

John Holmes Motherfucker - 2017-06-20
If I could only correct my posts, oh, what corrections I could make!

Oscar Wildcat - 2017-06-19
Tonight, on a very special episode of "The Jeffersons", George discovers his roots, and Wheezy's head explodes.
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