About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for “Jefferson’s Daughters: Three Sisters, White and Black, in a Young America”

Good afternoon and welcome to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m glad you could be with us today, whether you are here in the theater, watching us on C-SPAN, or joining us through YouTube.

Before we get to today’s discussion, I’d like to let you know about two other programs coming up soon.

On Friday, February 16, at noon, professors Chris Myers Asch and George Derek Musgrove will be here to talk about Chocolate City: A History of Race and Democracy in the Nation’s Capital. It is a tumultuous, four-century story of race and democracy in Washington, DC, a city that has often served as a national battleground for contentious issues, including slavery, segregation, civil rights, and the drug war.

And after a two-year absence, Abraham Lincoln’s original Emancipation Proclamation will be on display in the East Rotunda gallery during the President’s Day weekend. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to see the original Emancipation Proclamation. The document will be made available for viewing on February 17, 18 & 19 between the hours of 10 am and 5:30 pm each day. 

To learn more about these and all of our public programs and exhibits, consult our Calendar of Events online at Archives.gov. You can also sign up at the table outside the theater to get email updates.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Pick up your application for membership in the lobby or become a member online at archivesfoundation.org.

Today’s program takes a close look at Thomas Jefferson’s three daughters—Martha and Maria Jefferson and Harriet Hemings—while depicting the life of Thomas Jefferson through their eyes. Author Catherine Kerrison painstakingly researched their lives using primary sources, including court cases from the Records of the District Courts of the United States and deed books in the Records of the Government of the District of Columbia here at the National Archives.

In previous accounts about the Hemings family, authors, such as Annette Gordon-Reed,  made the case that Jefferson fathered children with Sally Hemings. For the first time in Jefferson’s Three Daughters, Mary Beth Norton with the New York Times Book Review writes that Kerrison’s beautifully written book, takes the relationship’s existence as a given.”

In a Christian Science Monitor review, Barbara Spindel wrote “Like all great histories do, “Jefferson’s Daughters” brings its period vividly to life, a credit to Kerrison’s exhaustive research, her passion for her subject, and her elegant writing.” 

Catherine Kerrison is an associate professor of history at Villanova University, where she teaches courses in Colonial and Revolutionary America and women’s and gender history. She holds a PhD in American history from the College of William and Mary. She is the author of several scholarly articles and two books and has presented her work in conferences in the U.S. and abroad. In the course of her research she has won grants and fellowships from organizations such as the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and the Virginia Historical Society. Her first book, Claiming the Pen: Women and Intellectual Life in the Early American South, won the Outstanding Book Award from the History of Education Society in 2007. 

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Catherine Kerrison.