April 27, 2009
Annette Gordon-Reed won a Pulitzer Prize in history for her book, “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family,” which examines four generations of a slave family owned by Thomas Jefferson. The prize includes a $10,000 award.
The book was revered by the Pulitzer board as “a painstaking exploration of a sprawling multi-generation slave family that casts provocative new light on the relationship between Sally Hemings and her master, Thomas Jefferson.” The book begins with the Hemingses in the 1700s and continues through 1826, when Jefferson’s home, Monticello, was put up for sale after his death.
Gordon-Reed was awarded the National Book Award in nonfiction for the same work in 2008.
A professor at New York Law School and Rutgers University, she is the author of several books, including another about Thomas Jefferson entitled, “Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy.” With the publication of that book in 1997, Gordon-Reed sparked new debate on the Jefferson-Hemings relationship by examining how the issue had been presented by Jefferson’s many biographers. In particular, she took on denials that such a relationship may have existed.
Gordon-Reed says she became interested in Jefferson in elementary school after reading a children’s biography of him, narrated by a fictional slave boy. She continued her study of Jefferson at Dartmouth College, where she majored in History. After obtaining her degree from HLS, Gordon-Reed became as an associate at Cahill Gordon & Reindel, and went on to serve as Counsel to the New York City Board of Corrections.
Next year, Gordon-Reed will return to HLS as a visiting professor, teaching a seminar on Politics, Social Life and Law in Jeffersonian America, and a class on the Legal Profession.