I posted the following information on Jay Bookman’s blog on December 18, 2017:
“I need to get this in writing before I forget it. I can cut and paste it elsewhere, later.
I was watching ‘Finding Your Roots’ by Dr. Henry Louis Gates a few minutes ago. The civil rights person by the name of Charlayne Hunter-Gault, who is my age of 75, integrated one of our Southern all-white colleges during the 1960s (University of Georgia). Many of you probably remember her. She is still alive and still an attractive, well-educated and well-spoken journalist.
Her great grandmother, Felicia Alexander Hunter, was the slave of a man by the name of Francis Eppes. Francis Eppes was the grandson of Thomas Jefferson by his younger daughter, Maria Jefferson Eppes, who died at age 26, after childbirth of a daughter who also died as a toddler. Maria (Mary) Jefferson had married her first cousin John (Jack) Wayles Eppes. John and Maria named their one child who lived past the age of two, Francis Wayles Eppes, who died at the age of 80 in Jefferson, Florida. Charlayne Hunter-Gault’s great-grandmother, Felicia Hunter, was married on the plantation of T. J. Eppes, great-grandson of Thomas Jefferson and son of both Francis Eppes, the grandson of Thomas Jefferson, and his first wife Mary Elizabeth Randolph Eppes. Thomas Jefferson (T. J.) Eppes had no slaves, I believe, but his father, Francis Eppes had inherited some of the land of his grandfataher Thomas Jefferson as well has some of Thomas Jefferson’s slaves. Francis Eppes ended up with 107 slaves before he moved to Florida, of whom one was the great-grandmother of Charlayne Hunter-Gault, as best as I can determine. I put all of this together from my readings of various historians and viewing “Finding Your Roots.” “Finding Your Roots” stopped going backwards in history with the name of Francis Eppes, grandson of Thomas Jefferson. The Emancipation Proclamation no doubt freed the slaves who had been owned by Francis Eppes so that his son, Thomas Jefferson Eppes, would have not had any slaves, at least after the Civil War, yet Felicia Hunter still elected to marry as a free woman on the Eppes plantation. Is history complex and mysterious or not?”
Another poster to MES:
“I was watching that myself.”
MES in response to that other poster:
“Notice that Henry Louis Gates did not tell his audience the information that I have here put together from my readings. I suspect that that would have been too controversial for public knowledge at this time and Gates was smart enough to avoid that direct connection of Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Thomas Jefferson, but I would think that he would have shared that information with Hunter-Gault privately after the program was filmed, so I believe she probably knows of her connection to Thomas Jefferson.
Moreover, Francis Eppes, grandson of Thomas Jefferson, moved to Florida after Thomas Jefferson had died (1826) and probably after his first wife, Mary Elizabeth Randolph Eppes, had died in 1835 in her mid-thirties. He took several of his slaves with him to Florida. The slaves of Thomas Jefferson who had remained in Virginia would have been freed by law with the end of the Civil War. Thomas Jefferson (T.J.) Eppes, great-grandson of Thomas Jefferson also migrated to Florida, where his father, Francis Eppes, had become an attorney and was appointed to the Board of Directors of Florida State University, which he (Francis Eppes) was instrumental in founding. In that Thomas Jefferson died penniless, his estate was not valuable when he died. I believe that may have been one reason that Francis Eppes, his grandson, wanted to give back to the Jefferson estate the land that Jefferson had left to him, specifically, but that was refused. I suspect that Francis Eppes left for Florida from Virginia after his first wife, Mary Elizabeth Randolph Eppes, had died in 1935 in order to make his own way, without much of an inheritance, from his grandfather because of the penniless state of Thomas Jefferson’s estate. Francis Eppes, the only surviving child of Thomas Jefferson’s younger daughter, Mary (Maria) Jefferson Eppes and John (Jack) Wayles Eppes, her first cousin, himself fathered 14 children, at least 6 of whom were birthed by his first wife, Mary Elizabeth Randolph Eppes, before her untimely death in 1835.
I, also, suspect that Thomas Jefferson, from the grave, would be pleased that all of his slaves had been freed by the actions of Abraham Lincoln. Thomas Jefferson told his only surviving child (at the death of Thomas Jefferson) with his wife, Martha Jefferson Randolph, also named Martha, to keep his slaves, as much as possible, within the Jefferson family. That is why, I suspect that Francis Eppes had so many slaves (107) while he lived in Virginia. He took only a few of these slaves to Florida with him. He had inherited those slaves from Thomas Jefferson’s estate, I would imagine. Jefferson did not want to break up slave families. I doubt Hunter-Gault realizes that fact.