Was Varina Howell Davis, Wife of Jefferson Davis Créole?

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DNA evidence to support fiction from novels that people have tried to pass off as truth? Not sure what you mean. I don't have doubt that slaves, slave owner's, and their relatives had relationships, but I'm not so sure it was as widespread as most believe. Where is the proof of all these relationships? I've never seen the actual numbers, do they exist?
Since miscegenation was illegal in the South until 1967 it is highly doubtful that slaves had relationships with their owners. More like rape or coercion. A whip is a powerful motivator. As is selling a mothers children.
What evidence do you have that Jefferson didn't father Sally Hemmings children vs what scholars have shown? What evidence do you have to refute thst African- Americans don't have over 25% ancestory? Is it logical to concede that African-American slave women were eager to sleep with their masters?
Leftyhunter
 

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I have always found the friendship that developed later in life between Varina Davis and Julia Grant fascinating. The ladies met for the first time while attending a celebration at West Point in 1893. Both were in their seventies. Julia learned they were both staying at the same hotel and asked for Varina’s room number. Ever bold, she knocked on her door and a great friendship ensued.

As they talked they quickly realized they lived within blocks of each other in New York City. Both ladies were intelligent, social and fond of art and the theatre. After returning home they were often seen driving in an open carriage talking and laughing.

Of course there were those who questioned the sincerity of their friendship, but any doubts of a genuine friendship were put to rest when Julia sent Varina a personal invitation to attend the dedication of Grant’s Tomb four years later. Many folks said their friendship was a testament to the healing between the North and South.

I just love stories like this that have a happy ending! For more on this friendship, check out First Lady of the South: The Life of Mrs. Jefferson Davis written by Ishbel Ross. It’s an oldie, but a goodie.
And Mrs. Davis confirmed their friendship by sharing her recipe for Alligator Cheesecake....
 
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Seems like we've been over this before- more than once. Scholars have not conclusively shown that any of Ms. Hemmings children was fathered by Mr. Jefferson.
Other then what I posted that showed the majority of Thomas Jefferson scholars do indeed think Jefferson was the father of all 6 of Sally Hemmings children.
Leftyhunter
 
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Since miscegenation was illegal in the South until 1967 it is highly doubtful that slaves had relationships with their owners. More like rape or coercion. A whip is a powerful motivator. As is selling a mothers children.
What evidence do you have that Jefferson didn't father Sally Hemmings children vs what scholars have shown? What evidence do you have to refute thst African- Americans don't have over 25% ancestory? Is it logical to concede that African-American slave women were eager to sleep with their masters?
Leftyhunter
Until Jefferson's DNA can be matched to one of Hemming's children's DNA it is purely speculation. Which doesn't hold much water by any stretch of the imagination, but believe what you want.

As far as DNA testing for African Americans, it depends on how the companies DNA sampling is figured into the equation. It works like a pyramid, the more samples they have the more data for analysis to give you an answer. This is a rather inexpensive method of collecting data, also not very accurate until a large database is formed, but still has severe limitations. So save your $99 dollars and hire a fortune teller, the results will be similar.
 

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Other then what I posted that showed the majority of Thomas Jefferson scholars do indeed think Jefferson was the father of all 6 of Sally Hemmings children.
Leftyhunter
Thanks for your response.
As you recall, we discussed your claim in several exchanges. I will not repeat all of my comments. You- or anyone else interested- can read numbers 158, 176, 185 and 188 in this thread.
Were this a paternity suit, and you the Petitioner, without DNA evidence, the burden of proof is on you. I maintain neither your comments here nor the sources you have provided would convince a judge to rule in your favor.
What about DNA testing? Today, if the respondent denies fatherhood, a judge will order a DNA test and base his decision on the results.
However, no sample of Thomas Jefferson's DNA has yet been taken or tested. The only DNA test results remotely related were from samples from descendants of his relatives.
- The DNA testing that has been the basis for this controversy is reported in Eugene A. Foster, et. al., Jefferson Fathered Slave's Last Child, Nature 396 (November 5, 1998), pp. 27-28.
- The 565 page report of the Jefferson-Hemings Scholars Commission, a group of eminent historians and scholars, is at
https://www.tjheritage.org/the-scholars-commission/
The Executive Summary of that report states (emphasis added):
The question of whether Thomas Jefferson fathered one or more children by his slave Sally Hemings is an issue about which honorable people can and do disagree. After a careful review of all of the evidence, the commission agrees unanimously that the allegation is by no means proven; and we find it regrettable that public confusion about the 1998 DNA testing and other evidence has misled many people. With the exception of one member, whose views are set forth both below and in his more detailed appended dissent, our individual conclusions range from serious skepticism about the charge to a conviction that it is almost certainly false.​
- Your reference, the Frontline report, a rehash of the 1998 DNA testing, is at www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline
- A discussion of the controversy at the Monticello website is at https://www.monticello.org/site/pla...mas-jefferson-and-sally-hemings-brief-account
In summary, two different groups have looked at the available information. Neither can prove that Thomas Jefferson had any illicit relationship with Sally Hemings.
 
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Bee

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Since miscegenation was illegal in the South until 1967 it is highly doubtful that slaves had relationships with their owners. More like rape or coercion. A whip is a powerful motivator. As is selling a mothers children.
What evidence do you have that Jefferson didn't father Sally Hemmings children vs what scholars have shown? What evidence do you have to refute thst African- Americans don't have over 25% ancestory? Is it logical to concede that African-American slave women were eager to sleep with their masters?
Leftyhunter
Until Jefferson's DNA can be matched to one of Hemming's children's DNA it is purely speculation. Which doesn't hold much water by any stretch of the imagination, but believe what you want.

As far as DNA testing for African Americans, it depends on how the companies DNA sampling is figured into the equation. It works like a pyramid, the more samples they have the more data for analysis to give you an answer. This is a rather inexpensive method of collecting data, also not very accurate until a large database is formed, but still has severe limitations. So save your $99 dollars and hire a fortune teller, the results will be similar.
Thanks for your response.
As you recall, we discussed your claim in several exchanges. I will not repeat all of my comments. You- or anyone else interested- can read numbers 158, 176, 185 and 188 in this thread.
Were this a paternity suit, and you the Petitioner, without DNA evidence, the burden of proof is on you. I maintain neither your comments here nor the sources you have provided would convince a judge to rule in your favor.
What about DNA testing? Today, if the respondent denies fatherhood, a judge will order a DNA test and base his decision on the results.
However, no sample of Thomas Jefferson's DNA has yet been taken or tested. The only DNA test results remotely related were from samples from descendants of his relatives.
You continue to claim, which I answered in 185, that "most historians today beleive Thomas Jefferson was indeed the father of Sally Hemmings six children." Yet none of the sources you cited makes that claim.
- The DNA testing that has been the basis for this is Eugene A. Foster, et. al., Jefferson Fathered Slave's Last Child, Nature 396 (November 5, 1998), pp. 27-28.
- The 565 page report of the Jefferson-Hemings Scholars Commission, a group of eminent historians and scholars, is at
https://www.tjheritage.org/the-scholars-commission/
The Executive Summary of that report states (emphasis added):
The question of whether Thomas Jefferson fathered one or more children by his slave Sally Hemings is an issue about which honorable people can and do disagree. After a careful review of all of the evidence, the commission agrees unanimously that the allegation is by no means proven; and we find it regrettable that public confusion about the 1998 DNA testing and other evidence has misled many people. With the exception of one member, whose views are set forth both below and in his more detailed appended dissent, our individual conclusions range from serious skepticism about the charge to a conviction that it is almost certainly false.​
- Your reference, the Frontline report, a rehash of the 1998 DNA testing, is at www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline
In summary, two different groups have looked at the available information. Neither can prove that Thomas Jefferson had any illicit relationship with Sally Hemings.
There is an existing thread on this topic

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/ro...nd-the-hemings-controversy.34110/#post-351506

This thread is about Varina Howell Davis
 

WJC

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There is an existing thread on this topic

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/ro...nd-the-hemings-controversy.34110/#post-351506

This thread is about Varina Howell Davis
Thank you!
As I wrote my last response to @leftyhunter on the topic, I queried for my past comments on the subject. I was surprised how many of our exchanges were a part of this thread. These have certainly strayed from the discussion of Ms. Davis.
I considered adding a note to the moderator to move these exchanges elsewhere. I'll do it now:
Moderator, can you move the appropriate comments?
 
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Dedej

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Came across this today. Make me think of this thread.

Varina Howell Davis: The Black First Lady of the Confederacy?
April 8, 2014 at 1:47am
By Alex Sparks

Recently while doing some reading online about history, my favorite subject, I happened to come across the following photograph.


10150796_684080294982991_5639282662940937020_n.jpg


This is a photo of Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy, and his young wife Varina Howell Davis. What immediately jumps out at you about this photograph? When I first saw it what literally leaped off the screen and shouted in my face with a bullhorn was the following thought: "This woman was of mixed race! She was black!".

But wait... how could that be? We are talking about the wife of the President of the Confederacy. And everyone knows that the Confederacy was white supremacist in it's beliefs.

This compelled me to do some research about this woman. Who was she?

According to the following biography from the website of the University of Ohio...

"Varina Howell Davis was born at her family plantation, the Briers, near Natchez, Mississippi in 1826. As a plantation owner’s daughter, Davis received her education from a private tutor and later attended finishing school. She was seventeen when she met Jefferson Davis while visiting the Hurricane, the plantation of his older brother, Joseph Emory Davis. “Uncle Joe” was an old family friend, but it was the first time she met any of his extended family. Davis was taken with her beauty and intelligence, and by the time her visit ended two months later she and Davis were unofficially engaged. Margaret Howell, her mother, objected to the engagement. She was not convinced that Davis, widowed and eighteen years older than her daughter, was a good match for Varina. She thought he was too brooding, and feared that Varina would be second fiddle to his former wife. Eventually, however, she gave in and they were married on February 26, 1845."

Further reading lead me to learn that while her mother was a southerner, Varina's father William was from New Jersey where his father Richard had been the governor. Like the above biography stated, William Howell owned a plantation there in Natchez with many slaves. Varina's mother was Margaret Louisa Kempe (1806–1867), born in Prince William County, Virginia, of a wealthy planter family who moved to Mississippi before 1816. Her parents were Colonel Joseph Kempe (sometimes spelled Kemp), a Scots-Irish immigrant from northern Ireland who became a planter and major landowner, and Margaret Graham, born in Prince William County. From everything I could find, it seemed that her family's ancestry, at least their "official" ancestry, was 100% European.

I looked through other photos of Varina, however, and there was no doubt in my mind that I was not mistaken with my initial impression:


10151159_684088231648864_6659951973693601028_n.jpg



10002959_684088301648857_1631448046524794355_n.jpg



1897712_684088438315510_7733229747177260699_n.jpg


It looks to me as that Varina got older, her mixed heritage became even more apparent in her physical appearance.

All of this raises multiple issues in one's mind, no doubt. How is it that the Presidenct of a government like the Confederate States of America could be married to a woman who appeared to so obviously be of mixed heritage, and it not cause any kind of stir? When I looked up the subject of Varina Howell Davis, and her apparent mixed heritage, I could find almost nothing about it online other than a couple of blog posts from people who came across photographs of her, and had the same thoughts I did. It seems to be a subject totally ignored by history.

Through a friend, however, I learned about the story of a woman named America Amanda Dickson, pictured below.

10155934_684092371648450_4657531102657349181_n.jpg


From GeorgiaEncyclopedia.org:

"Amanda America Dickson, the daughter of a slave and her owner, became one of the wealthiest black women in nineteenth-century America. She was born on November 20 or 21, 1849, on the Hancock County plantation of her father, the famous white agricultural reformer, David Dickson (1809-85). Her birth was the result of the rape of her slave mother, Julia Frances Lewis Dickson, when Julia was twelve years old. At the time, David Dickson was forty and the wealthiest planter in the county. Amanda America Dickson spent her childhood and adolescence in the house of her white grandmother and owner, Elizabeth Sholars Dickson, where she learned to read and write and play the piano—the survival skills of a young lady but not ordinarily the opportunities of a slave. According to the Dickson family oral history, David Dickson doted on Amanda, and Julia quite openly became his concubine and housekeeper.

Continue Reading here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/alex...irst-lady-of-the-confederacy/697470626962175/
 
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Came across this today. Make me think of this thread.

Varina Howell Davis: The Black First Lady of the Confederacy?
April 8, 2014 at 1:47am
By Alex Sparks

Recently while doing some reading online about history, my favorite subject, I happened to come across the following photograph.


View attachment 157370

This is a photo of Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy, and his young wife Varina Howell Davis. What immediately jumps out at you about this photograph? When I first saw it what literally leaped off the screen and shouted in my face with a bullhorn was the following thought: "This woman was of mixed race! She was black!".

But wait... how could that be? We are talking about the wife of the President of the Confederacy. And everyone knows that the Confederacy was white supremacist in it's beliefs.

This compelled me to do some research about this woman. Who was she?

According to the following biography from the website of the University of Ohio...

"Varina Howell Davis was born at her family plantation, the Briers, near Natchez, Mississippi in 1826. As a plantation owner’s daughter, Davis received her education from a private tutor and later attended finishing school. She was seventeen when she met Jefferson Davis while visiting the Hurricane, the plantation of his older brother, Joseph Emory Davis. “Uncle Joe” was an old family friend, but it was the first time she met any of his extended family. Davis was taken with her beauty and intelligence, and by the time her visit ended two months later she and Davis were unofficially engaged. Margaret Howell, her mother, objected to the engagement. She was not convinced that Davis, widowed and eighteen years older than her daughter, was a good match for Varina. She thought he was too brooding, and feared that Varina would be second fiddle to his former wife. Eventually, however, she gave in and they were married on February 26, 1845."

Further reading lead me to learn that while her mother was a southerner, Varina's father William was from New Jersey where his father Richard had been the governor. Like the above biography stated, William Howell owned a plantation there in Natchez with many slaves. Varina's mother was Margaret Louisa Kempe (1806–1867), born in Prince William County, Virginia, of a wealthy planter family who moved to Mississippi before 1816. Her parents were Colonel Joseph Kempe (sometimes spelled Kemp), a Scots-Irish immigrant from northern Ireland who became a planter and major landowner, and Margaret Graham, born in Prince William County. From everything I could find, it seemed that her family's ancestry, at least their "official" ancestry, was 100% European.

I looked through other photos of Varina, however, and there was no doubt in my mind that I was not mistaken with my initial impression:


View attachment 157371


View attachment 157372


View attachment 157373

It looks to me as that Varina got older, her mixed heritage became even more apparent in her physical appearance.

All of this raises multiple issues in one's mind, no doubt. How is it that the Presidenct of a government like the Confederate States of America could be married to a woman who appeared to so obviously be of mixed heritage, and it not cause any kind of stir? When I looked up the subject of Varina Howell Davis, and her apparent mixed heritage, I could find almost nothing about it online other than a couple of blog posts from people who came across photographs of her, and had the same thoughts I did. It seems to be a subject totally ignored by history.

Through a friend, however, I learned about the story of a woman named America Amanda Dickson, pictured below.

View attachment 157374

From GeorgiaEncyclopedia.org:

"Amanda America Dickson, the daughter of a slave and her owner, became one of the wealthiest black women in nineteenth-century America. She was born on November 20 or 21, 1849, on the Hancock County plantation of her father, the famous white agricultural reformer, David Dickson (1809-85). Her birth was the result of the rape of her slave mother, Julia Frances Lewis Dickson, when Julia was twelve years old. At the time, David Dickson was forty and the wealthiest planter in the county. Amanda America Dickson spent her childhood and adolescence in the house of her white grandmother and owner, Elizabeth Sholars Dickson, where she learned to read and write and play the piano—the survival skills of a young lady but not ordinarily the opportunities of a slave. According to the Dickson family oral history, David Dickson doted on Amanda, and Julia quite openly became his concubine and housekeeper.

Continue Reading here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/alex...irst-lady-of-the-confederacy/697470626962175/
Unless a DNA sample comes from Varina's only daughter's descendents who actually bore children we really will never know.
Leftyhunter
 

JPK Huson 1863

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I'm honestly not sure it was always considered such a huge, big deal as we're given to believe today. Honest. Yes, I understand all about the law, vile racial prejudice and vast gulf between races. But. Picking up signs here and there we're a little clueless on how complicated the inter-relationship could be 200 years ago. Please no one get bent out of shape. It's just a feeling based on an increasing conviction ' the South ' was unbelievably complicated.

In the North, too- seeing baffling, incomprehensible signs in the past we're not putting our fingers entirely on top of our social understanding of ' the way it was '. For instance, had a DNA link hook into a long ago wedding. Bride? On a slave schedule, out of Venezuela of all places, church a ' white ', much-frequented church in small-town PA. Huh. Incomprehensively, she's entered incorrectly in 90% of trees now- given a German name, and ancestry. Looking at church records ( bee in bonnet now ), quite a few other weddings between races there- no, really. She was not African- must have been enslaved from another down trodden country.

Point being, what do we know? Was the post war backlash- until 1960- so great we now have no idea what it was to live and move in that era?

Have always thought Varina yet another woman whose story has been re-written for her. Gee whiz. Because Davis lost his lovely first wife, he could not fall in love with another woman? Canadian geese mate for life. Davis must have thought himself the luckiest fellow walking to have lucked out twice in a lifetime.
 

NH Civil War Gal

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Somehow just seeing all this - Coke Roberts in her book, "Capital Dames" talks a lot about Varina. She was olive complexioned and a determined, somewhat fiery (but she tried to use it for good!) woman. That combination didn't go down all that well with the Cavalier, English Aristocracy myth (to a point) with eastern Virginians. Their ideal of womanhood was fair complexion and hair - blond and blue-eyed if you will to "prove" their English and Norman ancestry which was supposedly superior to most northerners and certainly to prove them lord and masters over inferior races.

Varina crossed swords rather frequently with her husband and brother-in-law. She LOVED east coast life in DC with socialization and well, just being around people, theaters, books, compared to being on a plantation in the middle of nowhere for months on end. Jeff threatened to leave her in Mississippi if she didn't straighten up with not arguing with him. He wrote her a letter asking her (I'm paraphrasing), "why, in God's name, did she get into a fight with his brother" who was far more unbending than Jeff Davis was, and Jeff could be pretty unbending. She got into a fight with Joseph over some plantation management thing - Jeff had given Joseph the right to rule his plantation and Varina tried to challenge him over something. That caused Joseph to write Jeff, etc, etc.

Her personality did not initially go down well with other southern women in DC. She called it as she saw it and that was definitely not the expected behavior of an elite woman and lady at the time. So other elite women started rumors about her olive complexion, behavior, etc. Because the outcome would have been banishment, she submitted to the times.

It is telling that far in the future, she was willing to live in NYC and be great friends with Julia Dent Grant and let Jeff cool his heels in Mississippi. She had done her "loyalty" all her life and now she wanted to live her life and speak her mind. I would have loved to be the fly on the wall when she and Julia got together. In many ways, Varina lived a tragic life but I think she came out ahead, far more than Jeff did.
 
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I am so glad to see this thread, because it means that someone saw what I saw when I looked at Varina's photographs! My fascination began when I visited the 1st White House of the Confederacy in Montgomery and saw her picture on the wall. For starters, her facial expression in one picture was striking because of the little attitude she was throwing, lol! So much of her personality comes through in her portraits. I just had to know more about this lady! The more I researched, the more I was struck by just how not-white she appeared. She clearly has some kind of mix going on, who knows how many generations back. Perhaps the lineage goes so far back that no one in her family remembered; or perhaps they knew exactly where it came from, but no one was saying! :wink: The irony of the First Lady of the Confederacy being a woman of color is somehow so satisfying. :smile:

Anyway, I've been reading lots of original correspondence as well as the secondary sources, next I'm going to see what Frazier's take is in his not-yet-released novel entitled Varina. (see link below)

https://www.amazon.com/Varina-Novel...ie=UTF8&qid=1520274624&sr=8-1&keywords=varina
 

WJC

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I am so glad to see this thread, because it means that someone saw what I saw when I looked at Varina's photographs! My fascination began when I visited the 1st White House of the Confederacy in Montgomery and saw her picture on the wall. For starters, her facial expression in one picture was striking because of the little attitude she was throwing, lol! So much of her personality comes through in her portraits. I just had to know more about this lady! The more I researched, the more I was struck by just how not-white she appeared. She clearly has some kind of mix going on, who knows how many generations back. Perhaps the lineage goes so far back that no one in her family remembered; or perhaps they knew exactly where it came from, but no one was saying! :wink: The irony of the First Lady of the Confederacy being a woman of color is somehow so satisfying. :smile:

Anyway, I've been reading lots of original correspondence as well as the secondary sources, next I'm going to see what Frazier's take is in his not-yet-released novel entitled Varina. (see link below)

https://www.amazon.com/Varina-Novel...ie=UTF8&qid=1520274624&sr=8-1&keywords=varina
Welcome! Yes, it is a fascinating story. Hopefully, you'll find many other fascinating stories in the many threads in the Forum! Enjoy, and join in the conversation: new perspectives are always welcome!
 

WJC

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Thank you! I am just so drawn to the Davis family--Jeff Davis was fascinating, and although I'm a Yankee myself, I've always had respect and compassion for him. He was truly one of a kind.
Thanks for your response.
Had circumstances been different, he might very well have been the Democrat candidate and winner of the 1860 presidential election. But then, that's a discussion for another thread....
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Thanks for bringing a new book to the thread. I'm always ready to hear more of Varina simply because she is yet another famous man's wife who tends to become orphaned from her husband- we see it an awful lot. It's like a bizarre, freakish and collective jealousy. You know, like on Bonanza, none of the main characters could have a girlfriend? They all got killed off.

Varina, for some reason has never been ' allowed ' to be her husband's ' real ' wife; this myth all about his heart having buried with his first wife proliferates. It's all you hear. Or about her ancestry. That's as annoying as the dead wife- no one would find it worth remarking, were she to be Irish or German or Welsh. I don't know. Sometimes you smell fishy agenda, when trolling through ancestral waters.
 
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I am not sure if this has been discussed. I did a search - but didn't find anything that covered this topic.

I came across the picture the other day of Varina Howell Davis -- and the first person I thought of was my Great Grandmother. In each picture I found online of Mrs. Davis it was very clear to me she was Creole (Quadroon) and passing or "Mulatto." She was born in Natchez, Mississippi - which many Creoles are from and still live today.
This is fake, I think:

36bb6-varina_howell_davis_jefferson_davis-jpg.jpg


This is the image in Wiki:

747px-Varina_Howell.jpg


Varina is noticeably more "European" in the bottom image.

- Alan
 



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