This presentation was made at the University of Virginia in a forum "Cracking the Fable," sponsored by the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society. The speaker is Robert F. Turner, a cofounder of the Center for National Security Law (1981) at the University of Virginia School of Law. Professor Turner holds both professional and academic doctorates from the University of Virginia School of Law, and is a former Charles H. Stockton Professor of International Law at the U.S. Naval War College and a Distinguished Lecturer at West Point. He has taught both in Virginia's Department of Government and Foreign Affairs and the Law School, and is the author or editor of more than a dozen books. A former president of the congressionally-established U.S. Institute of Peace, he has had a strong professional interest in Jefferson for more than four decades.
He is the Chairman of the independent Jefferson-Hemings Scholars Commission, and the editor of The Jefferson-Hemings Controversy: Report of the Scholars Commission. The Report documents the results of a year-long, independent panel inquiry by thirteen distinguished academics from across the nation. Working without compensation, the scholars were unanimous in their conclusion that "the allegation is by no means proven," and with but a single mild dissent their views "ranged from serious skepticism about the charge to a conviction that it is almost certainly untrue." Each argument in the debate is examined in careful detail in the comprehensive 412-page volume, with more than 1,400 footnotes documenting their analysis. Many of the commonly accepted premises behind the story were found to be false, according to the panel of scholars.