Gayle Jessup White, descendant of Thomas Jefferson, searches for her family’s legacy
Editor's note: This conversation originally aired November 10, 2021
America has been undergoing a great reconciliation in which the sins of our past are being brought into the light. We are reconsidering how we remember the institution of slavery, and that includes the historical figures from that period.
That history is deeply personal to Gayle Jessup White. She grew up hearing the lore that her family is descended from our country’s third president, Thomas Jefferson. Her curiosity about how her Black family could be related to Jefferson drove her to study her family’s genealogy.
She has traced her ancestry to Jefferson and two families that were enslaved at his estate, Monticello. One relative is a historical figure in her own right. White discovered she is the great-great-great-granddaughter of Peter Hemings, Sally Hemings’ brother.
Gayle Jessup White tells the fascinating story in her new book, "Reclamation: Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson, and a Descendant's Search for Her Family's Lasting Legacy."
Gayle Jessup White, author of “Reclamation: Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson, and a Descendant's Search for Her Family's Lasting Legacy.” She is the public relations and community engagement officer at Monticello.