About 250 people who believe they are descendants of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings learned more about their heritage and each other at a reunion in Charlottesville.
At the first Monticello Community Gathering over the weekend, attendees discussed family ties and toured downtown Charlottesville and Monticello.
Organizer Diana Redman calls the gathering "an opportunity to get beyond the racial issues." Redman is a descendant of Madison Hemings, one of Hemings' sons.
Many books and studies have been written both supporting and refuting Jefferson as the father of five of the children of Sally Hemings, Jefferson's black slave.
The Monticello Association has adamantly denied membership to Hemings' descendants, citing lack of evidence that Thomas Jefferson fathered her children.
DNA testing in 1998 showed that the Hemings family descended from a male member of the Jefferson family, and some respected historians believe it’s likely that was Thomas Jefferson.