CONTACT: MELVIN O. SHAW
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0010; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: March 2, 2000
Hemings, Jefferson descendants discuss race relations in America March
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Shay Banks-Young and Julia Westerinen will share their
views about race in America and the legacy of their respective forebears,
Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson, when they visit the University of Iowa
Tuesday, March 7 for a 7:30 p.m. talk at the Main Lounge of the Iowa Memorial
At a UI Lecture Committee sponsored event, Banks-Young and Westerinen will
present a free and public lecture, "The Affairs of Race in America: A
Conversation in Black and White."
In 1998 DNA researchers concluded what many already believed about Jefferson
and his commonly known slave and mistress, Sally Hemings: that the third U.S.
president was the father of Hemings' youngest son, Eston. The journal Nature
first reported the findings in November 1998, which afterward, saw a bevy
of national news reports on the pair's relationship.
Banks-Young and Julia Westerinen said in a publicist's statement that while
the researchers' findings was "shocking news for many historians, who
for years had denied the possibility that Jefferson was capable of such 'immoral'
behavior," it was not shocking to them nor their families.
They said their families have always been confident that their respective
great-great-grandfathers, Madison and Eston, were in fact, the sons of Jefferson
"The proof of this relationship, which seems to have lasted 38 years,
leaves us with a great number of questions about race relations in the United
States. It also raises certain ironic questions in light of the recent scandals
involving the current resident of the White House," they said in the
Julia Westerinen, Eston Hemings' great-great-granddaughter, is a former
educator turned businesswoman who lives in Staten Island, N.Y. Banks-Young
is a health trainer and poet who has hosted her own public affairs talk show.
She lives in Columbus, Ohio. Since the discovery, theyve taken to the
road, appearing together and separately on various shows, including "The
Oprah Winfrey Show," and "BET Tonight" with Tavis Smiley. In
magazines "Time" and "U.S. News and World Report" they've
talked about the researchers' findings and have engaged many in dialogues
about race relations in the U.S. The magazine "Cosmopolitan" in
1999 named Banks-Young one of that year's "Fun, Fearless Females"
for her community-building efforts.
Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of
Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires
an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact the
UI Lecture Committee at (319) 335-3255.