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Annette Gordon-Reed

  • Harvard Law School unveils memorial honoring enslaved people who enabled its founding

    Understanding the legacy of slavery

    April 28, 2022

    Following the release of a report by the Presidential Committee on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery, Harvard Law Dean John F. Manning has announced initiatives to honor the enslaved people whose labor generated wealth that contributed to Harvard Law School’s founding.

  • Annette Gordon-Reed: Getting History Right

    February 23, 2022

    Welcome to Beyond the Page: The Best of the Sun Valley Writers’ Conference. Over the past 25 years, SVWC has become the gold standard of American literary festivals, bringing together contemporary writing’s brightest stars for their view of the world through a literary lens. Every month, Beyond the Page curates and distills the best talks from the past quarter century at the Writers’ Conference, giving you a front row seat on the kind of knowledge, inspiration, laughter, and meaning that Sun Valley is known for. Is Thomas Jefferson to be deplored as a slave-owner who had a family with a young woman he owned or is he to be celebrated as one of the country’s most essential and gifted founders? Or, should he be both—condemned and revered? That is the question Annette Gordon-Reed, the brilliant Harvard law professor, historian, and author of the Pulitzer prize-winning The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, has long wrestled with.

  • Black legal professionals hail Biden’s historic Supreme Court promise

    February 11, 2022

    On Jan. 27, President Biden made history by announcing that he would nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court by the end of February. “While I’ve been studying candidates’ backgrounds and writings, I’ve made no decision except one,” Biden said in remarks made at a White House event to formally announce the retirement of 83-year-old liberal Justice Stephen Breyer. “The person I will nominate will be someone of extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity. And that person will be the first Black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court. It’s long overdue.” ... “African American women have historically operated under the disabilities of being women and Black, particularly during times when those groups had less power,” Annette Gordon-Reed, a Harvard law professor and Pulitzer Prize–winning historian, told Yahoo News. “To fight through, that has often required great resilience and creativity.”

  • Historian urges us to resist the ‘cuddly’ version of MLK and remember true legacy

    January 18, 2022

    The legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. as a relentless fighter for equality and justice is being distorted, says historian and Harvard Law Professor Annette Gordon-Reed. ... “The interesting thing about Black people is that we have founding mothers and founding fathers: Douglass, Tubman, Sojourner Truth,” Gordon-Reed said. “Men and women participating on an equal basis, however they could, to try to advance Black people.”

  • She Says Juneteenth is as Central to Texas Cultural DNA as Cowboys, Ranchers, and Oilmen

    January 3, 2022

    The brilliance of award-winning historian and Harvard law professor Annette Gordon-Reed is her ability to tell the stories of those whose voices and experiences have been marginalized. In her groundbreaking scholarship on Thomas Jefferson and enslaved Sally Hemings, Gordon-Reed debunked conventional historical narratives, revealing complex, instructive truths about the relationship. Now, in On Juneteenth, a collection of essays about Texas, Gordon-Reed’s family and the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Texas learned of their emancipation, the historian whose Texas family tree extends on her mother’s side to the 1820s and on her father’s side at least to the 1860s, speaks truth to Texas lore with incisive clarity. She’s a worthy finalist for 2021 Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year.

  • The Best Things in Texas, 2022

    December 15, 2021

    The Conroe school district voted to name a new elementary school after native daughter Annette Gordon-Reed, the Harvard historian and author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Hemingses of Monticello.

  • The 10 Best Books of 2021

    December 1, 2021

    On Juneteenth By Annette Gordon-Reed. This book weaves together history and memoir into a short volume that is insightful, touching and courageous. Exploring the racial and social complexities of Texas, her home state, Gordon-Reed asks readers to step back from the current heated debates and take a more nuanced look at history and the surprises it can offer. Such a perspective comes easy to her because she was a part of history — the first Black child to integrate her East Texas school. On several occasions, she found herself shunned by whites and Blacks alike, learning at an early age that breaking the color line can be threatening to both races.

  • 100 Notable Books of 2021

    November 22, 2021

    On Juneteenth, By Annette Gordon-Reed, Carl M. Loeb University Professor: In a book that is part memoir, part history, Gordon-Reed (who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for “The Hemingses of Monticello”) recounts her continuing affection for her home state of Texas, despite its reputation for violence and racism, writing that “the things that happened there couldn’t have happened in other places.”

  • Our 20 Favorite Books of 2021

    November 17, 2021

    On Juneteenth, by Annette Gordon-Reed. A Harvard law professor and author of The Hemingses of Monticello, which won both the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize, Gordon-Reed is the textbook definition of public intellectual; and yet she gets personal in this slender, evocative memoir, blending textures from her small-town Texas girlhood with the unofficial celebration of slavery’s demise and the broader canvas of race in America, as when she integrated her public school: “My great-great-aunt…the one who lived in Houston and was also quite extravagant—bought boxes and boxes of dresses, tights, blouses, skirts, and hats from the most upscale department store in the city at the time, Sakowitz… Making sure I was dressed to the nines was her contribution to the civil rights movement.”

  • The 1619 Project and the Long Battle Over U.S. History

    November 15, 2021

    On Jan. 28, 2019, Nikole Hannah-Jones, who has been a staff writer at The New York Times Magazine since 2015, came to one of our weekly ideas meetings with a very big idea. ... This book, which is called “The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story,” arrives amid a prolonged debate over the version of the project we published two years ago. That project made a bold claim, which remains the central idea of the book: that the moment in August 1619 when the first enslaved Africans arrived in the English colonies that would become the United States could, in a sense, be considered the country’s origin. ... Much has changed in the past 25 years, as new research has transformed and expanded the field of American history yet again. ... Since then, a huge amount of scholarship has been published about the experience of enslaved women, including pathbreaking research like Annette Gordon-Reed’s work on the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, a woman who was one of the hundreds of people the third president enslaved. For many generations, some historians denied that Jefferson had a sexual relationship with Hemings or that she bore some of his children. Gordon-Reed’s work, along with DNA testing published in 1998 that confirmed Jefferson’s paternity, established the relationship beyond a doubt.

  • Smiling woman with black hair and black jacket and gray sweater

    Annette Gordon-Reed receives Governor’s Award from Mass Humanities

    October 22, 2021

    Harvard Law Professor Annette Gordon-Reed ’84, the Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard, has been recognized by Mass Humanities with its Governor’s Award in the Humanities

  • Jefferson Statue May Be Removed After More Than 100 Years at City Hall

    October 18, 2021

    For more than 100 years, a 7-foot-tall statue of Thomas Jefferson has towered over members of the New York City Council in their chamber at City Hall. The statue has stood by for generations of policy debates, thousands of bills passed and a city budget that has soared to roughly $100 billion. It has also withstood another test of time: Two decades ago, a call to banish the statue gained attention, but went nowhere. But as the country continues the slow and painful process of determining who deserves to be memorialized in shared public spaces, the removal of the Jefferson statue is receiving far more serious consideration. ... Annette Gordon-Reed, a Harvard Law School professor and a Jefferson expert, objected to the idea of taking down the Jefferson statue, but described its likely move to the New-York Historical Society, where she serves as a trustee, as the best-case scenario. “This represents a lumping together of the Confederates and a member of the founding generation in a way which I think minimizes the crimes and the problems with the Confederacy,” Ms. Gordon-Reed said.

  • A rich, varied poetry anthology, updates from local bookstores, and an honor for author Annette Gordon-Reed

    September 29, 2021

    Historian, professor, and author Annette Gordon-Reed has been awarded the 2021 Governor’s Award in the Humanities from Mass Humanities. Gordon-Reed, the Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard, won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for her 2008 book “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family” (Norton). She’s also been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the National Humanities Medal, and a MacArthur Fellowship, among other prizes and awards. Mass Humanities awards the prize each year, recognizing the recipients’ “public actions, grounded in an appreciation of the humanities, to enhance civic life in the Commonwealth.” Gordon-Reed will be honored, alongside three other recipients — John Burgess, Sonia Nieto, and Heather Cox Richardson — in a virtual awards ceremony on October 24 at 5 p.m. For more information, visit

  • A glass flower on exhibit at Harvard University.

    Harvard beyond the Yard

    September 23, 2021

    Harvard Law faculty and staff reveal beloved spots for work and play at America’s oldest institution of higher learning.

  • Where were you when it happened?

    September 9, 2021

    The Gazette asked some Harvard affiliates from across the University where they were when the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks took place, and how they think about that day two decades later. ... Annette Gordon-Reed Carl M. Loeb University Professor, Harvard University: I was in the concourse of the south tower in Sam Goody’s record store to buy a new Walkman radio/cassette player. I had just returned from taking my kids to school, having come up from the subway. I heard a loud “whump,” and things began to fall around us. I ran out with everyone else and ended up in an area that gave me a view of the north tower, which had been struck. Horrific. Things were falling down from the collision. We were told to stay put. I remembered something my father told me when I was a little girl: “If you come upon a scene where there are lots of ambulances and evidence of a disturbance, go the opposite way.”

  • “On Juneteenth”: Annette Gordon-Reed’s Ode To Emancipation Joy

    September 1, 2021

    Tom's guest on this archived edition of Midday is the author and historian Annette Gordon Reed. She is best-known for her study of Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson. Her book, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, won sixteen book prizes, including the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Her latest book is a beautiful peroration on the meaning of the holiday known as Juneteenth, which marks the anniversary of a significant historical event: on June 19th, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger issued General Order No. 3 in Galveston, Texas, declaring that all slaves were free, two months after General Robert E Lee had surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S Grant in Appomattox, Virginia. Juneteenth celebrations of this belated emancipation originated among African American communities in Texas, and now take place around the country.

  • On the Trail Blazed by W.E.B. Du Bois

    August 31, 2021

    Annette Gordon-Reed, interviewed by Nawal Arjini: “Writing, teaching, activism, organizing—he did everything. And I feel a responsibility, or desire, to reach as many people as I can with my writing that grows out of my interest in the Black struggle.”

  • Three banners hanging outside between columns on Langdell Hall. Two read Harvard Law School. Middle one reads Veritas and Lex Et Iustitia.

    Harvard Law School unveils new shield

    August 27, 2021

    The new Harvard Law emblem is the result of extensive consultations by a working group of students, faculty, staff, and alumni led by Professor Annette Gordon-Reed.

  • Annette Gordon-Reed portrait

    ‘Truth, law, and justice are so important to Harvard Law School’s mission’

    August 23, 2021

    Annette Gordon-Reed ’84 discusses how the Shield Working Group approached its task, what she and other members learned from extensive focus groups about HLS’ distinguishing features, and how the new shield reflects the mission, values, and diversity of Harvard Law School.

  • Books aligned on window sill with a seaside sunset background.

    Harvard Law faculty summer 2021 book recommendations

    July 1, 2021

    Looking for a new book to enjoy at the beach, park, or on your couch? Six HLS faculty members share what they’re reading this summer. 

  • Juneteenth

    June 14, 2021

    Annette Gordon-Reed ’84 on her home state of Texas' complex history.

  • Illustration set in forest. A red while and blue quilt on the ground which shows the state of Texas and below it roots in red white and blue

    A Sense of Place

    June 11, 2021

    In the newly published “On Juneteenth,” Gordon-Reed presents a 360-degree view of the history leading up to the holiday and beyond, weaving in her perspective as a Black woman with Texas roots that run deep.

  • The Best Books of 2021 So Far

    May 28, 2021

    Some of the best books of the year so far provide welcome respite from the outside world—while others aim directly for the turbulence, providing frameworks to understand how the past informs our present. Michelle Zauner crafts a devastating tribute to her late mother, circling universal themes of grief. Torrey Peters examines what makes a family in her refreshing debut novel. And Annette Gordon-Reed explores the history behind Juneteenth, offering a comprehensive account of the holiday and its place in our culture. Here, the best books of 2021 so far...On June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger read out a declaration telling the enslaved people in Texas that they were finally emancipated, two long months after Appomattox. Juneteenth was a day long-celebrated by many Black communities in Texas and across America, but only in the past year or two has it become a more widely recognized holiday. In her slim but potent book, Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning historian and Harvard professor Annette Gordon-Reed explores the story of that day and all the ways that Black and Native people’s lives have been obscured in culture. As a Texas native, Gordon-Reed offers a book that is both profound and personal in its exploration of the ways history shapes our lives and becomes distorted and reinvigorated over time.

  • Annette Gordon-Reed on Texas history and growing up there in the ’60s and ’70s

    May 17, 2021

    While the story of her home state is a large part of the focus of historian Annette Gordon-Reed’s latest work, “On Juneteenth,” it is also a very personal project. Gordon-Reed’s new, 144-page book is named for the holiday commemorating the moment when news of legalized slavery’s end in the U.S. finally reached African Americans in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865 — about 2½ years after the Emancipation Proclamation. A blend of history and memoir, it shines a light on some of her early experiences in the segregationist South — she became the first Black student to attend a white school in her town — and how the country’s largest state “has always embodied nearly every major aspect of the story of the United States of America.” Gordon-Reed, the Carl M. Loeb University Professor, is famed for her groundbreaking “Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy” (1997), in which she showed that the nation’s third president, Thomas Jefferson, had fathered the children of Sally Hemings, a woman he enslaved. Her 2008 follow-up, “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family,” chronicled the lives of Hemings and her children, earned her a Pulitzer Prize in history and a National Book Award. The Gazette recently spoke with Gordon-Reed about her latest work.

  • Annette Gordon-Reed Explores the Tangled Meaning of Juneteenth

    May 12, 2021

    In the historic Black neighborhood where I grew up in Dallas, a parade would roll off the lot of New Mount Zion Baptist Church on June 19, or the Saturday closest to it, and wend its way through a community where many of the streets were named for institutions and people central to Black history: Oberlin and Ebony. Bellafonte and Dandridge. Bunche and Campanella...Growing up, though, I heard many people—relatives from Out West, recent transplants from Up North, Black elites eager to distance themselves from supposedly backward cousins—mock our parades and picnics as sad testimonials to being late and last...The answer, as the historian Annette Gordon-Reed explains in her new book On Juneteenth (Liveright/W. W. Norton + Company), is that Juneteenth was never about commemorating a delayed proclamation but about celebrating a people’s enduring spirit, before and after General Granger’s decree... In On Juneteenth, Gordon-Reed, an East Texas native, confesses to feeling slightly annoyed to discover that people outside Texas celebrate the holiday. For her, the “twinge of possessiveness” grew from a belief in Texas exceptionalism drummed into natives at birth. “Non-Texans could never really understand what the events that took place in Texas actually meant,” she writes. Her “proprietary attitude” passed soon enough. After all, Black Texans such as Fort Worth activist Opal Lee have campaigned to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, and East Texas congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee reintroduced the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act in February.

  • Annette Gordon-Reed’s Surprising Recollections of Texas

    May 10, 2021

    Almost every memoir could fairly be subtitled “The Education of.…” Some explicitly embrace the formulation; “The Education of Henry Adams” is the second most influential memoir in American letters, after Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography. “On Juneteenth,” Annette Gordon-Reed’s insightful, often touching reflection on the Black experience in Texas, starting with her own, lands between these two: less arch than Adams, more historical than Franklin. Gordon-Reed’s historical emphasis, like Adams’s, is partly a professional matter. Adams was a distinguished historian at the beginning of the 20th century. Gordon-Reed has earned acclaim as one of the most important American historians of our time. Her 2008 “The Hemingses of Monticello” won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award. Gordon-Reed’s education included an awakening to the complexity of human existence. Many people look to history for lessons applicable to the present; they seek a “usable past,” in the words of Van Wyck Brooks. The simpler the lessons — that is, the more reducible to adage or slogan — the more usable they are. But simplicity comes at a cost to historical accuracy. Historians recognize this; for them the appeal is in the complexity. Time and again in this slim volume, Gordon-Reed notes her discovery that the past is more complicated than she had imagined.

  • Black America’s Neglected Origin Stories

    May 6, 2021

    A story by Annette Gordon-Reed: When I was growing up in Conroe, Texas, about 40 miles north of Houston, my classmates and I took Texas history twice, in the fourth and seventh grades. We learned about Texas’s history in the United States, its previous existence as a republic, and its time as a province of Mexico. Among other things, we were exhorted to “remember the Alamo” and “remember Goliad,” famous events in Texas’s fight for independence from Mexico. Some other aspects of the state’s history were less covered. I didn’t need school lessons to tell me that Black people had been enslaved in Texas, but in the early days of my education, the subject was not often mentioned. Some of our lessons did, however, involve the “period of Spanish exploration.” And I remember hearing in those lessons stray references to a man of African descent—a “Negro” named Estebanico—who traveled throughout what would become Texas. Estebanico was described, according to Andrés Reséndez’s book A Land So Strange: The Epic Journey of Cabeza de Vaca, as a “black Arab from Azamor,” on the coast of Morocco. A Muslim, he had been forced to convert to Christianity and sold away from his home to Spain; he eventually found his way to Texas in the company of the famous explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca. He arrived in the area of the future Galveston, where Union General Gordon Granger would proclaim the end of the Civil War and the end of slavery in Texas more than 300 years later, on the day now known as Juneteenth. Estebanico’s journey across Texas as an interpreter for Cabeza de Vaca made him one of the first people of African descent to enter the historical record in the Americas.

  • Annette Gordon-Reed: History teaches us about change over time

    May 5, 2021

    Professor and author Annette Gordon-Reed continues her week-long discussion on Morning Joe of the themes in her new book 'On Juneteenth'.

  • On Juneteenth

    April 30, 2021

    What's up with Texas? Austin, the blue capital of the red state, is named for a Southern slaveholder, the acclaimed “Father of Texas,” who brought 300 families and their human chattel with him to extend the South’s peculiar institution into the area we now call the American Southwest. The banners honored in the Texas-based Six Flags Theme Parks’ name include two — the Republic of Texas and the Confederate States of America — from entities that sought not only to preserve slavery, but to enshrine it in perpetuity. And the “heroes” of the Alamo died not to free themselves from despotic Mexican rule, as is often portrayed in our mythology, but, as Mexico was moving toward abolition, to make their newly occupied land forever unfree for the enslaved workers who allowed them to prosper as the plantocracy of East Texas. In On Juneteenth, Harvard historian Annette Gordon-Reed grapples with the myths and contradictions of her beloved home state — a place that once subjugated, segregated, and lynched Black people (including in her home county) and remains ruled by politicians determined to suppress the hard-won votes of minorities and maintain their own power even as demographics inevitably shift.

  • ‘It’s Something Bigger’: This New Platform Is Reimagining The Role Of News Media In Eradicating Racism

    April 26, 2021

    During the abolitionist movement of the 19th century, journalists were among those leading the charge to eradicate slavery. Two centuries later, they’re continuing to inspire change, with leaders at the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research and the Boston Globe teaming up to apply the same pressure to ongoing racial injustice. The result: The Emancipator, a platform cofounded by author, historian and Boston University Center for Antiracist Research director Ibram X. Kendi and Boston Globe editorial page editor Bina Venkataraman that will spotlight antiracism practices through the multimedia work of journalists, historians and scholars. Content will include written stories, research and interactive events like roundtables...The team has also recruited an advisory board of journalists and scholars, including the New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones, Harvard historian and author Annette Gordon-Reed, journalist and immigration rights activist Jose Antonio Vargas and The 19th CEO and editor-in-chief Emily Ramshaw. Members of the founding team also include Dr. Monica Wang, associate director of narrative for the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research, and Kimberly Atkins, Boston Globe columnist and MSNBC contributor.

  • The Historian Annette Gordon-Reed Gets Personal in ‘On Juneteenth’

    April 21, 2021

    The historian Annette Gordon-Reed’s “On Juneteenth” is an unexpected book. She’s best known for her work on Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, the enslaved woman with whom Jefferson had multiple children — a once controversial thesis that’s now accepted as historical fact in large part because of Gordon-Reed’s scholarship. She has written before about the need for historians to maintain a certain distance from the people they write about, to see “the complexity and contradictions” that might otherwise get crushed in an overzealous embrace. In “On Juneteenth,” Gordon-Reed identifies quite closely with her subject — and only a sliver of the book is directly about Juneteenth itself. But if this book is a departure for her, it’s still guided by the humane skepticism that has animated her previous work. In a series of short, moving essays, she explores “the long road” to June 19, 1865, when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger announced the end of legalized slavery in Texas, the state where Gordon-Reed was born and raised.

  • The Tensions That Roiled Texas

    April 14, 2021

    Loeb University Professor Annette Gordon-Reed is best known for her Pulitzer Prize-winning history, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family. Her slender new book, On Juneteenth (Liveright / W.W. Norton, $15.95), is part history, part memoir and meditation on her own growing up in Texas, the original home to Juneteenth — the commemoration of the June 19, 1865, proclamation that slavery had ended in that state, and of late, a nationally recognized and now Harvard official holiday. She sets the stage with a brisk overview of the historical state.

  • FDR SCOTUS editorial cartoon

    Is the Supreme Court broken?

    March 25, 2021

    Is the Supreme Court in crisis, and if so, how can it be fixed? Three distinguished Court-watchers from across the ideological spectrum debated these questions at the Harvard Law School Rappaport Forum, a recurring speaker series established last year thanks to a gift from the Phyllis & Jerome Lyle Rappaport Foundation.

  • 400 years of the African American experience, told by a ‘choir’ of Black voices

    February 8, 2021

    Along with books about Donald Trump, the biggest story in the publishing industry last year was “the racism reading list.” As millions took to the streets to protest the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other unarmed Black people senselessly killed by police, books about the history of race and racism in America shot to the top of bestseller lists. So voracious was this sudden hunger for education about the roots of our latest racial reckoning that a clever marketer might have thought to commission a version of CliffsNotes for the curriculum. As it turns out, two authors on that reading list were already on the case. In 2019, the award-winning authors Ibram X. Kendi (“How to Be an Anti-Racist”) and Keisha N. Blain (“Set the World on Fire”) began approaching other prominent Black writers to collaborate on a group history of the African American experience. Two years later, the co-editors have produced a volume of 80 short essays that is highly readable and far more compelling than a mere historical digest would have been. The book’s title, “Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019,” refers to the 400 years since the first African slave ship, the White Lion, arrived in the colony of Virginia in 1619 — as well as to the collective spiritual journey traveled in that time span. The structure is both chronological and thematic, with each author covering a different topic over a five-year period, usually in 2,000 words or less. The contributors include renowned scholars (Annette Gordon-Reed, Molefi Kete Asante), Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists (Isabel Wilkerson, Nikole Hannah-Jones), nationally known activists (the Rev. William J. Barber II, Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund) and living legends of the Black struggle (Angela Y. Davis).

  • How do we get to a more stable democracy? 6 writers chart a course

    January 21, 2021

    As soon as the videos began streaming in on Jan. 6, it became clear that the nation was experiencing something unprecedented and dangerous but also, in many ways, unsurprising. The storming of the Capitol in the service of false conspiracy theories had no single cause, and no single Biden executive order can undo the threats and divisions it exposed. Which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to ferret out the causes and game out solutions to America’s disinformation crisis. The Times gathered six writers who have been examining these issues for years...Annette Gordon-Reed: “I would add the loss in status of whites, particularly white males. The talk about political correctness is a cover for this deep concern about a loss of status. Income inequality is part of it, but there’s a group of people like the lawyer couple standing on their lawn with the guns — that just feel lost. The New York Times asked a group of people to suggest books for President Biden. I suggested W.E.B. DuBois’ ‘Black Reconstruction,’ because we’re in a moment where there are people who fear the growing political power of minority groups and Black groups in particular. And this has been a problem from the era that I studied, the early American Republic: Who are the folks who count? One thing that could be done about it would be for the government to actually be efficient, to actually work. We’ve become anti-government since the 1980s. And we have this entity that we pay taxes to that’s not supposed to do anything.” ... Martha Minow: “The Republican Party in particular for 50 years has bet on these divisions. We’ve seen this, sadly, in other countries where there are the ingredients of status anxiety and economic inequality. The question is, what do the leaders do? If leaders appeal to those fears and amplify them, that is a toxic environment. I hate to be grandiose about it, but that has given rise to genocides.”

  • ‘Celebrating America’ – A PBS NewsHour inauguration special

    January 21, 2021

    PBS NewsHour is taking a closer look at Inauguration Day with our special, "Celebrating America." Anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff breaks down the historic day with White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, Washington Post senior critic Robin Givhan, filmmaker Ken Burns and Annette Gordon-Reed, a historian and law professor at Harvard University.

  • ‘Sedition’: A Complicated History

    January 8, 2021

    As a shocked nation reacted to the storming of the United States Capitol on Wednesday by a pro-Trump mob trying to disrupt the certification of the presidential election, one word describing the chaos quickly rose to the top. “It borders on sedition,” President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. said in his remarks to the nation. “This is sedition,” the National Association of Manufacturers said in a statement that accused President Trump of having “incited violence in an attempt to retain power.” ... The Alien and Sedition Acts, passed by the Adams administration in 1798, were intended to clamp down on the political enemies of the Federalists, Adams’s party, and weaken Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans. The broader backdrop was a brewing conflict with post-Revolutionary France, and Federalists’ belief that Democratic-Republican criticism of their policies undermined national stability, and their fear that foreigners and immigrants, who leaned Democratic-Republican, would support France in a war. Under the law, journalists who criticized the administration were thrown in jail, immigrant voting rights were tightened and foreigners deemed “dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States” could be deported. “That took place in the context of an infant republic that was unsure of its place in the world,” Annette Gordon-Reed, a professor of history and law at Harvard, said. “This was all new: How do you protest? What effect does protesting have on government?” But “we’ve had almost 250 years now,” she continued. “We know the mechanisms for legitimate criticism, and they do not involve sabotaging the operations of government when those operations have been arrived at by lawful means.”

  • criminal justice illustrations

    ‘This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for change’

    November 19, 2020

    HLS faculty on COVID-19 and the pressing questions of racism, racial injustice, and abuse of power that have driven this difficult year—and that are the focus of three new lecture series at the school.

  • Alexander Hamilton, Enslaver? New Research Says Yes

    November 10, 2020

    The question has lingered around the edges of the pop-culture ascendancy of Alexander Hamilton: Did the 10-dollar founding father, celebrated in the musical “Hamilton” as a “revolutionary manumission abolitionist,” actually own slaves? Some biographers have gingerly addressed the matter over the years, often in footnotes or passing references. But a new research paper released by the Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site in Albany, N.Y., offers the most ringing case yet. In the paper, titled “‘As Odious and Immoral a Thing’: Alexander Hamilton’s Hidden History as an Enslaver,” Jessie Serfilippi, a historical interpreter at the mansion, examines letters, account books and other documents. Her conclusion — about Hamilton, and what she suggests is wishful thinking on the part of many of his modern-day admirers — is blunt...The evidence cited in the paper, which was quietly published online last month, is not entirely new. But Ms. Serfilippi’s forceful case has caught the eye of historians, particularly those who have questioned what they see as his inflated antislavery credentials. Annette Gordon-Reed, a professor of history and law at Harvard and the author of “The Hemingses of Monticello,” called the paper “fascinating” and the argument plausible. “It just shows that the founders were nearly all implicated in slavery in some way,” she said.

  • Black Lives Matter march

    Expansive racial justice movements ‘make other worlds possible’

    September 30, 2020

    “Racial Equality?,” a new year-long lecture series organized by Professors Randall Kennedy and Annette Gordon-Reed ’84, aims to address some of these acute issues with a wider lens that investigates both the paths to—and potential manifestations of—racial equality.

  • Annette Gordon-Reed named University Professor

    July 29, 2020

    Annette Gordon-Reed, the Charles Warren Professor of American History at Harvard Law School and professor of history in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, has been named a University Professor, Harvard’s highest faculty honor. One of the nation’s most accomplished historians and legal scholars, Gordon-Reed is admired throughout academia for the cross-disciplinary lens through which she studies American history. Her scholarship has reframed the historical dialogue about slavery and enslaved peoples in the United States by enhancing America’s understanding of race in the Colonial era, and her biographies of key figures in American history, including the Hemings family of Monticello, Thomas Jefferson, and Andrew Johnson, have brought a new light to the contemporary interpretations of their lives and work. “Annette Gordon-Reed has changed how people think about America,” said Harvard President Larry Bacow. “Through her extraordinarily incisive scholarship, she carefully reveals truth and, in the process, urges all of us to confront our past and present so that we might imagine a better future. Her voice has never been more important to our national conversation, and I am thrilled that she will join the ranks of the University’s most celebrated faculty members.” John F. Manning, the Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and professor of law at Harvard Law School, said, “I am delighted that the University has recognized my colleague Annette Gordon-Reed with the honor of serving as the Carl M. Loeb University Professor. Professor Gordon-Reed is a superb historian who has fundamentally remade our understanding of family and domestic relations in the history of enslaved people in the United States and prompted a profound reckoning with contradictions in the life of Thomas Jefferson. Professor Gordon-Reed is also an exceptional and tireless contributor to the Harvard community, willing time and time again to bring her tremendous skill, wisdom, and integrity to critical assignments on behalf of both the Law School and the University.”

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    Distance Learning Up Close

    July 23, 2020

    Teaching and learning at Harvard Law School in the first months of the pandemic

  • Robert E. Lee statue surrounded by protesters

    Must We Allow Symbols of Racism on Public Land?

    July 23, 2020

    A legal historian who has focused on the history of U.S. slavery puts the push to remove Confederate statues in context.

  • Cast of ‘Hamilton’ discusses show’s enormous popularity and impact

    July 9, 2020

    Robin Roberts chats with creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, director Thomas Kail, Professor Annette Gordon-Reed, and members of the cast for "Hamilton: History Has Its Eyes on You," which will premiere on Disney+.

  • Honoring the past without overlooking racism

    July 6, 2020

    Harvard professor Annette Gordon-Reed, historian Tim Naftali and Fareed on reconsidering honors and monuments to historical figures with racist legacies.

  • How Could a Slaveholder Write “All Men Are Created Equal?”

    June 29, 2020

    Could a slaveholder also be an advocate for equality for all? That is the riddle left behind by one of America’s founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson. Pulitzer Prize-winning historians Annette Gordon-Reed and Jon Meacham join Walter Isaacson to discuss Jefferson's monuments and whether or not they should come down.

  • Growing Up with Juneteenth

    June 22, 2020

    An article by Annette Gordon-ReedWhen I was a little girl, in Texas, I thought Juneteenth belonged to us, meaning to the state of Texas generally and to black Texans specifically. In my small town, the story of Gordon Granger, the U.S. Army general who announced, in Galveston, on June 19, 1865, that slavery was over, was told with seriousness and bits of gallows humor. The older people joked that the Emancipation Proclamation had actually been signed two years before, but “the white people” wanted to get a few extra harvest seasons in before they told “the Negroes” about it. My father would say, with a sardonic smile and a short laugh, that it was worse than that: “the slaves have never really been freed.” The jokes played upon several basic truths. The Emancipation Proclamation had, in fact, been signed more than two years before, but its provisions could only be applied in areas controlled by the U.S. Army. Confederate forces in Texas did not surrender until June 2, 1865. Even after Granger’s announcement, many whites in Texas continued to enslave people who had not heard the news. Those who had heard were often forcibly prevented from acting as if any material change had taken place. Freedom had come in legal terms, but the story was not so clear on the ground as it was on paper. Former enslavers unleashed violence upon the people whom they had claimed as property, and others threatened to do so in order to make people work. Amid joy and hope was great malevolence and power. As my father’s jibe suggested, the legacies of slavery still lingered, putting true freedom out of reach. I don’t recall white Texans celebrating Juneteenth. Then again, I wouldn’t know; the holiday was part of the summer, and summer took kids in my home town out of the schools and back into our racially separated communities.