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Thomas Jefferson 

A biographical film about The United States' influential and profoundly enigmatic Founding Father.

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Series cast summary:
Ossie Davis ...  Narrator 2 episodes, 1997
Joseph Ellis ...  Himself - Historian 2 episodes, 1997
John Hope Franklin ...  Himself - Historian 2 episodes, 1997
Gwyneth Paltrow ...  Jefferson's Grandaughter 2 episodes, 1997
Michael Potts ...  Isaac 2 episodes, 1997
Gore Vidal ...  Himself - Writer 2 episodes, 1997
Sam Waterston ...  Thomas Jefferson 2 episodes, 1997
George Will ...  Himself - Writer 2 episodes, 1997
Garry Wills Garry Wills ...  Himself - Historian 2 episodes, 1997


A biographical film about The United States' influential and profoundly enigmatic Founding Father.

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Release Date:

1997 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Thomas Jefferson See more »

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Did You Know?


Blythe Danner also portrayed Martha Jefferson in 1776 (1972). See more »


In recounting the story of the 1800 presidential election, the narrator says "In early 1801, the Electoral College met in the new capital to pick the next president." The Electoral College does not meet in the capital. In accordance with the Constitution, in December 1800 (not early 1801) the electors from each state met in their respective states to cast their votes. What the program should have said was that in early 1801 Congress met in the new capital to count the votes of the Electoral College. See more »


Thomas Jefferson: "The life of a cabbage is paradise".
See more »


Featured in Ken Burns: America's Storyteller (2017) See more »

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User Reviews

The verdict of history
13 November 2002 | by ivan-22See all my reviews

Ken Burns and company do an excellent job of giving us the whole Jefferson, warts and all. But one begins to wonder why they didn't do a documentary about someone else of the times, someone who didn't own slaves, didn't deport all Eastern Indians to the West, didn't build a museum for his personal abode, didn't praise the French Revolution in the most immoderate terms and didn't sink deep into debt. Whether he impregnated slave Sally is almost tangential and immaterial. He "did" so many other things! It is often said, one shouldn't judge a historical figure by today's exacting standards. Yet it is also said, by those same people, that time must pass to allow us to objectively evaluate today's leaders. And as if this weren't enough, one also hears these souls denounce "moral relativism". Go figure. But one needn't judge Jefferson by today's "politically correct" standards. One can be content with judging him by his own time's and, indeed, by his very own standards. And, one can emulate his own extremely harsh judgments of fellow founding father Alexander Hamilton. It's disrespectful to the founding fathers not to judge them. They judged each other, and they wanted to be judged. This good documentary is marred by interruptions from overexposed, self-important pundits from all corners of the vaunted political spectrum, a common documentary flaw. Interpretation and opinion should be served on a separate plate - please! A little more verve and humor would have added spice and made for a less reverential opus. Jefferson wrote so many letters. There should have been more quotations from the horse's mouth.

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