Annette Gordon-Reed is an American law professor and Pulitzer Prize winning historian. She is currently the Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History at Harvard University, where she is also the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and a professor of history in the university’s Faculty of Arts & Sciences.
Gordon-Reed is noted for changing scholarship on Thomas Jefferson regarding his relationship with Sally Hemings and her children. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for History and the National Book Award for Nonfiction and 15 other prizes in 2009 for her work on the Hemings family of Monticello. In 2010, she received the National Humanities Medal and a MacArthur Fellowship also known as the MacArthur “Genius Award.”
Since 2018, she has served as a trustee of the National Humanities Center in Research Triangle Park, NC. She was elected a Member of the American Philosophical Society in 2019.
Thomas Jefferson is often portrayed as a hopelessly enigmatic figure―a riddle―a man so riven with contradictions that he is almost impossible to know. Lauded as the most articulate voice of American freedom and equality, even as he held people―including his own family―in bondage, Jefferson is variably described as a hypocrite, an atheist, or a simple-minded proponent of limited government who expected all Americans to be farmers forever.
Now, Annette Gordon-Reed teams up with America’s leading Jefferson scholar, Peter S. Onuf, to present an absorbing and revealing character study that dispels the many clichés that have accrued over the years about our third president. Challenging the widely prevalent belief that Jefferson remains so opaque as to be unknowable, the authors―through their careful analysis, painstaking research, and vivid prose―create a portrait of Jefferson, as he might have painted himself, one “comprised of equal parts sun and shadow” (Jane Kamensky).
Most Blessed of the Patriarchs” fundamentally challenges much of what we’ve come to accept about Jefferson, neither hypocrite nor saint, atheist nor fundamentalist. Gordon-Reed and Onuf, through a close reading of Jefferson’s own words, reintroduce us all to our most influential founding father: a man more gifted than most, but complicated in just the ways we all are.
Andrew Johnson never expected to be president. But just six weeks after becoming Abraham Lincoln’s vice president, the events at Ford’s Theatre thrust him into the nation’s highest office.
Johnson faced a nearly impossible task―to succeed America’s greatest chief executive, to bind the nation’s wounds after the Civil War, and to work with a Congress controlled by the so-called Radical Republicans. Annette Gordon-Reed, one of America’s leading historians of slavery, shows how ill-suited Johnson was for this daunting task. His vision of reconciliation abandoned the millions of former slaves (for whom he felt undisguised contempt) and antagonized congressional leaders, who tried to limit his powers and eventually impeached him.
The climax of Johnson’s presidency was his trial in the Senate and his acquittal by a single vote, which Gordon-Reed recounts with drama and palpable tension. Despite his victory, Johnson’s term in office was a crucial missed opportunity; he failed the country at a pivotal moment, leaving America with problems that we are still trying to solve.
This epic work―named a best book of the year by the Washington Post, Time, the Los Angeles Times, Amazon, the San Francisco Chronicle, and a notable book by the New York Times―and winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award―tells the story of the Hemingses, whose close blood ties to our third president had been systematically expunged from American history until very recently. Now, historian and legal scholar Annette Gordon-Reed traces the Hemings family from its origins in Virginia in the 1700s to the family’s dispersal after Jefferson’s death in 1826.
This book of twelve original essays will bring together two themes of American culture: law and race. The essays fall into four groups: cases that are essential to the history of race in America; cases that illustrate the treatment of race in American history; cases of great fame that became the trials of the century of their time; and cases that made important law. Some of the cases discussed include Amistad, Dred Scott, Plessy v. Ferguson, Scottsboro, Korematsu v. US, Brown v. Board, Loving v. Virginia, Regents v. Bakke, and OJ Simpson.
All illustrate how race often determined the outcome of trials, and how trials that confront issues of racism provide a unique lens on American cultural history. Cases include African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Caucasians. Contributors include a mix of junior and senior scholars in law schools and history departments.
When Annette Gordon-Reed’s groundbreaking study was first published, rumors of Thomas Jefferson’s sexual involvement with his slave Sally Hemings had circulated for two centuries. Among all aspects of Jefferson’s renowned life, it was perhaps the most hotly contested topic. The publication of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings intensified this debate by identifying glaring inconsistencies in many noted scholars’ evaluations of the existing evidence. In this study, Gordon-Reed assembles a fascinating and convincing argument: not that the alleged thirty-eight-year liaison necessarily took place but rather that the evidence for its taking place has been denied a fair hearing.
Possessing both a layperson’s unfettered curiosity and a lawyer’s logical mind, Annette Gordon-Reed writes with a style and compassion that are irresistible. Each chapter revolves around a key figure in the Hemings drama, and the resulting portraits are engrossing and very personal. Gordon-Reed also brings a keen intuitive sense of the psychological complexities of human relationships… relationships that, in the real world, often develop regardless of status or race. The most compelling element of all, however, is her extensive and careful research, which often allows the evidence to speak for itself.
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