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Two of Thomas Jefferson's descendants will speak at Old Dominion University Thursday, Feb. 17, as part of the President's Lecture Series. Their talk, "The Affairs of Race in America: A Conversation in Black and White" will begin at 8 p.m. in the Mills Godwin Jr. Life Sciences Building auditorium. It is free and open to the public.

When genetic testing suggested Thomas Jefferson bore children with his slave Sally Hemings, Shay Banks-Young and Julia Jefferson Westerinen were not surprised. Banks-Young, who is black, and Westerinen, who is white, have long believed that their great-great-grandfathers, Eston and Madison, were, in fact, the sons of Jefferson and Hemings.

A report made public by the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation last week found that the best evidence available suggests the likelihood that Thomas Jefferson fathered one, and perhaps all, of the known children of Sally Hemings.

To Banks-Young and Westerinen and their families, the 38-year relationship between America's third president and one of his slaves raises questions about race relations and political "morality" in the United States. In their talk, the pair will engage in an honest, new dialogue about these issues and discuss the differences and similarities they share.

Banks-Young is a preventive health trainer and a poet who has hosted her own public affairs talk show. She was named one of Cosmopolitan magazine's 1999 Fun, Fearless Females for her community-building efforts. Westerinen is a former educator turned businesswoman.

Together and separately, they have appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," "BET Tonight with Tavis Smiley" and "Sally Jesse Raphael."

For more information about their talk, call 683-3114.

This article was posted on: February 7, 2000

Old Dominion University
Office of University Relations

Room 100 Koch Hall Norfolk, Virginia 23529-0018
Telephone: 757-683-3114

Old Dominion University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution.