American Sphinx Short Essay - Answer Key

Joseph Ellis
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1. Why is Jefferson claimed by many individuals with opposing beliefs?

His own beliefs and actions were contradictory, so it is not surprising that those of opposing beliefs would find some connection with Jefferson.

2. Why might the author be surprised by the number of people who attend the evening devoted to Jefferson?

The event is rather scholarly, so many people might not have found it to be a place to spend an evening.

3. Why might the audience have been too polite to discuss Jefferson's slave ownership and relationship with Sally Hemings?

They attend the event to express gratitude for Jefferson's achievements, not to revel in his human failures.

4. What do John Wales and Thomas Jefferson possibly have in common?

They are both reported to have fathered children with their slaves.

5. Where is the relationship between Jefferson and Hemings a topic?

It has a rich oral history among the black community.

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