Go to New York State Writers Institute
Jane Feldman and Shannon Lanier
Jane Feldman & Shannon Lanier

February 10, 2005

4:00 p.m. Talk
Recital Hall, PAC

UAlbany, Uptown Campus

Jefferson's Children

Shannon Lanier and Jane Feldman are co-authors of the young adult book, "Jefferson's Children: The Story of One American Family" (2000), a nonfiction collection of interviews, stories, historical accounts, and research regarding Thomas Jefferson's biracial family. It is the first work, among the many volumes that have been written about Jefferson and his relationship with his slave and mistress Sally Hemings, to include the oral history and personal stories of the family members themselves.

In October 1998, the Associated Press published news of DNA evidence linking the descendants of Sally Hemings to the Jefferson line. Ten days later, the Oprah Winfrey Show hosted a family reunion of Jefferson's Black descendants. Shannon Lanier, a young family member, and Jane Feldman, a professional photographer, met at the reunion. They recognized the importance of this event and of the richness of the many points of views that were represented and decided to collaborate on a book to document the histories of both sides of Jefferson's family.

"Jefferson's Children" was named one of the Best Books of 2001 by the American Library Association. Cultural and literary critics alike have heralded the book as a significant work in its social and artistic scope.

"part of its value is that it is a mosaic of individual responses to a painful legacy--I like the way Feldman and Lanier give center stage to the descendents themselves." - Henry Wiencek

Other critics note that the book has engendered conversations around the nation through its structure and subject matter.

"The thoughtful, sensitive discussion of how Americans define race makes "Jefferson's Children" not only a compulsively readable book but also an invaluable catalyst for discussion. Adults and children alike who read it will find themselves thinking about race, history and family in a new way." - The "Pittsburgh Post Gazette"

The book is widely assigned in courses at junior high schools, high schools, and colleges throughout the country.

A descendant of Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings, Shannon Lanier traces his lineage through their son Madison Hemings. He began collaborating on "Jefferson's Children" at the age of nineteen. Now twenty-four, Lanier is a graduate of Kent State University with both a BS and MA in Electronic Media Production and Media Management. He has served as the host of "Real Exchange," an Emmy-winning TV show about issues important to young people, which airs on WCPO Channel 9 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Jane Feldman is a professional photographer who has gained international attention for her work in advertising and the non-profit arena. Much of her professional and personal time has been devoted to projects that promote youth empowerment and interracial understanding. She has worked with the Annenberg Foundation, the Citykids Foundation, the United Nations, Amnesty International and various Puerto Rican environmental groups. She is also the author and photographer of several children's books, including four in the Random House "Young Dreamers" series: "I Am a Dancer" (1999), "I Am a Gymnast" (2000), "I Am a Rider" (2000), and "I Am a Skater" (2002).

The event is cosponsored by the New York State Writers Institute, the History Graduate Student Organization, GSO-Multicultural Affirmative Action, and the Greater Capital Region Teacher Center.