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Annette Gordon-Reed

  • The Great American Myth of Equality

    November 15, 2022

    From the moment Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, penned these words, the fight to control their meaning began: “We hold…

  • A drawing of Harvard Yard at its founding

    Reckoning with a Painful Legacy

    July 14, 2022

    Harvard issues a report on the university’s connections to slavery and its long history of discrimination against Black people long after slavery was abolished by the 13th Amendment.

  • New Harvard Law banners hanging on Langdell Hall

    Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery

    April 28, 2022

    A report issued by the Presidential Committee on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery recounts the many ways Harvard University participated in, and profited from, slavery. Harvard leaders and scholars examine the report and its implications for the future.

  • 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 masshumanities.org.

  • 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.”