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Annette Gordon-Reed

  • Charlottesville: Why Jefferson Matters

    August 22, 2017

    An op-ed by Annette Gordon-Reed. I came to Charlottesville, Virginia for the first time in 1995. After four months of feverish work, I had completed a manuscript about what I thought was the biased and, therefore, unreliable way in which historians had handled the question of whether Thomas Jefferson had children with Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman at his plantation, Monticello...I mention these things to say that the national tragedy that unfolded in Charlottesville last week struck at every aspect of my being—a black person, a friend, an American, and a scholar who has devoted many years to studying Jefferson, slavery at Monticello, and, by extension, Charlottesville.

  • Thomas Jefferson’s Bible Teaching

    July 5, 2017

    An op-ed by Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter S. Onuf. It was an article of Thomas Jefferson’s faith that no government should interfere in anyone’s private religious beliefs. A passionate student of history, Jefferson knew that religious struggles through the ages had caused “rivers of blood” to flow all over the world. The blood is still flowing. News of sectarian violence reaches us daily from across the globe, bringing us unimaginably horrific and mind-numbing images. One of Jefferson’s most fervent hopes was that Americans would be spared this carnage, and he did his best to set us on that path. It’s worth pausing, this Fourth of July, to ponder this facet of Jefferson’s deep wisdom, and how well we’ve lived up to it.

  • Aspen Ideas: New Orleans mayor weighs in on fallen monuments

    July 5, 2017

    Last May's removal of four Confederate monuments in New Orleans touched off praise and criticism...This week at the Aspen Ideas Festival, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, one of the primary forces behind the removal of the public monuments of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and Gen. Beauregard, along with the one opposing Reconstruction, called their displacements "very difficult and very painful." But he also said he believed it was the right thing to do, even though he might have lost some friends and allies in the process...Added another panelist, Annette Gordon-Reed, a professor at Harvard Law School: "We can distinguish between people who wanted to build the United States of America and people who wanted to destroy it. It's possible to recognize people's contributions at the same time as recognizing their flaws."

  • Annette Gordon-Reed

    Annette Gordon-Reed’s personal history, from East Texas to Monticello

    May 4, 2017

    Annette Gordon-Reed’s path to Harvard, where she is the Law School’s Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History and a professor of history in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, is every bit as interesting as her pioneering scholarship.

  • ‘You can’t let your emotions overtake you so much that you can’t do the work’

    May 3, 2017

    For as long as she can remember, Annette Gordon-Reed wanted to write. As a child, she loved words and books, especially biographies, and was all of 7 when she became an author herself. More than four decades later, “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family” brought a Pulitzer Prize and recognition as a major historian of U.S. slavery. Gordon-Reed’s path to Harvard — she is the Law School’s Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History and a professor of history in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences — is every bit as interesting as her pioneering scholarship.

  • How one of the worst US presidents in history alienated Congress to the point that he was impeached

    April 21, 2017

    On March 4, 1865, Andrew Johnson drank several glasses of whiskey to stave off what might have been nerves or a fever. Then, the vice president-elect headed off to his inauguration. The weather outside was terrible, so the ceremony took place in the crammed Senate chamber. Things went downhill after Johnson was sworn in...To find out, Business Insider spoke with Annette Gordon-Reed, a professor of history and law at Harvard University and the author of "Andrew Johnson." According to Gordon-Reed, Johnson's tarnished reputation is well-deserved, thanks to his deeply-held prejudices and general failings as a leader. "I think he's one of the worst," she told Business Insider.

  • Probing how colleges benefited from slavery

    March 6, 2017

    ...An afternoon discussion touched on the recent controversy surrounding Harvard Law School’s shield. Last March, the University retired the shield, which was modeled on the family crest of Isaac Royall Jr., an 18th-century slaveholder whose bequest endowed the first professorship of law at Harvard. History scholar Daniel R. Coquillette, who recently helped to publish a book on the first century of HLS, said his research brought him to Royall and also to Antigua, the West Indian island that was the home of his lucrative sugar plantation. “As we got into” the research, he said, “it got worse.”...His comment was in part a reference to Professor Annette Gordon-Reed’s written response to the shield controversy, what he called “one of the most eloquent pieces of writing I’ve ever seen.”

  • For decades they hid Jefferson’s relationship with her. Now Monticello is making room for Sally Hemings.

    February 21, 2017

    The room where historians believe Sally Hemings slept was just steps away from Thomas Jefferson’s bedroom. But in 1941, the caretakers of Monticello turned it into a restroom...Time, and perhaps shame, erased all physical evidence of her presence at Jefferson’s home here, a building so famous that it is depicted on the back of the nickel...“You’re in the home of the person who wrote the Declaration of Independence, who criticized slavery but was a slaveholder,” said Harvard law professor Annette Gordon-Reed, author of “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family.” The story of Monticello is at its core “about the complicated nature of America’s founding,” she said.

  • In Search of the Slave Who Defied George Washington

    February 7, 2017

    The costumed characters at George Washington’s gracious estate here are used to handling all manner of awkward queries, whether about 18th-century privies or the first president’s teeth. So when a visitor recently asked an African-American re-enactor in a full skirt and head scarf if she knew Ona Judge, the woman didn’t miss a beat. Judge’s escape from the presidential residence in Philadelphia in 1796 had been “a great embarrassment to General and Lady Washington,” the woman said, before offering her own view of the matter...“He’s a much more mythic figure than Jefferson,” said Annette Gordon-Reed, the author of “The Hemingses of Monticello” and a Harvard professor. “Many people want to see him as perfect in some way.”But his determined pursuit of Judge, she said, as much as his will freeing his slaves, reflects the basic mind-set of slave owners. “It’s saying, ‘Whatever I might think about slavery in the abstract, I should be able to do what I want with my property,’” she said.

  • Can a president’s farewell speech help write history? (video)

    January 11, 2017

    President Obama will deliver his farewell address to the nation this evening before a room full of supporters in Chicago. We discuss a little of the Obama legacy and look ahead to tonight’s speech with two historians, “NewsHour” regular Michael Beschloss, and Annette Gordon-Reed of Harvard University..."This is a chance to cement his legacy and talk about the kinds of things that he wanted to do as president. And he is facing a situation where people might try to undo a good amount of that. So, I think this is a good way for him to sort of lay a template, perhaps, for historians later on, even though that’s almost an impossible thing to do. But I think it’s a way for him to talk about his legacy, to sort of say to the American people what was important to him, what he thinks he accomplished as president."

  • The Captive Aliens Who Remain Our Shame

    January 2, 2017

    A book review by Annette Gordon-Reed. It is a commonplace that being an American is a matter neither of blood nor of cultural connections forged over time. It is, instead, a commitment to a set of ideals famously laid down by the country’s founders, and refined over generations with a notion of progress as a guiding principle. The Declaration of Independence, with Thomas Jefferson’s soaring language about the equality of mankind and the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” is the most powerful statement of those ideals. It is sometimes called America’s “creed.” Of course, what it means to be an American is not—has never been—so simple a proposition. Seeing the men most typically described as the “founders” of the United States as sources of inspired ideals equally available to all conflicts with our knowledge of the way most of them saw and treated Native Americans and African-Americans during the founding period.

  • Harvard Law School: 2016 in review

    December 22, 2016

    A look back at 2016, highlights of the people who visited, events that took place and everyday life at Harvard Law School.

  • Beyond Hope

    December 13, 2016

    From the moment Barack Obama was elected in 2008, he began to disappoint those who had believed in his message of change. ...Two days after the election, we sat down with five leading historians and political observers in the New Republic’s offices in New York City, overlooking Union Square. At the table were Annette Gordon-Reed of Harvard and Nell Painter of Princeton, two of America’s preeminent scholars on American history.

  • Diversity and U.S. Legal History

    December 7, 2016

    During the fall 2016 semester, a group of leading scholars came together at Harvard Law School for the lecture series, "Diversity and US Legal History," which was sponsored by Dean Martha Minow and organized by Professor Mark Tushnet, who also designed a reading group to complement the lectures.

  • Yale Sets Policy That Could Allow Renaming of Calhoun College

    December 4, 2016

    On Friday, the university announced a new procedure for considering the renaming of university buildings, along with an official reconsideration of the controversial decision last spring to keep the Calhoun name. A new — and final — verdict is expected early next year. That policy requires anyone calling for a renaming to submit a formal application, including a dossier of historical research justifying the renaming according to a set of general principles created by an independent 12-person committee named in August by the university’s president, Peter Salovey, in response to continuing furor over the Calhoun decision...“They did a very good job fleshing out the issues and creating guideposts on how to deal with a question that is probably going to come up again and again,” said Annette Gordon-Reed, a historian at Harvard Law School and a member of a committee that voted last year to scrap that school’s seal, which honored a family of 18th-century slave owners.

  • Annette Gordon-Reed and “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs:Thomas Jefferson&the Empire of Imagination” (audio)

    November 17, 2016

    On Wednesday’s Access Utah we’ll talk with acclaimed law professor and historian, Annette Gordon-Reed, as a part of the Pulitzer Prizes Centennial Campfires Initiative...Her new book, with fellow Jefferson scholar Peter Onuf, is "Most Blessed of the Patriarchs: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination,” which explores Jefferson’s vision of himself, the American Revolution, Christianity, slavery, and race.

  • The Enigma and Contradictions of Thomas Jefferson

    November 7, 2016

    For an Election Day broadcast, we go back to our country's founding with a recent book on Thomas Jefferson that challenges some of the cliches about our third president.  We talk with Annette Gordon-Reed, co-author of "Most Blessed of the Patriarchs" about Jefferson's life at Monticello, his sojourn in Paris, and his views on slavery and race.  GUEST:  Annette Gordon-Reed, co-author with Peter S. Onuf, of "Most Blessed of the Patriarchs".  Gordon-Reed is the Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History at Harvard Law School.  Gordon-Reed won the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for "The Hemingses of Monticello."

  • Correcting ‘Hamilton’

    October 11, 2016

    Historian Annette Gordon-Reed would like to make clear that she likes “Hamilton,” the Broadway hip-hop musical phenomenon about Alexander Hamilton. But she would like to make clearer that she found the show problematic in its portrayals of Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, the Founding Fathers, and the issue of slavery.

  • Correcting ‘Hamilton’

    October 11, 2016

    Historian Annette Gordon-Reed would like to make clear that she likes “Hamilton,” the Broadway hip-hop musical phenomenon about Alexander Hamilton, which audiences and critics have adored and some scholars and writers have scorned. But she would like to make clearer that she found the show problematic in its portrayals of Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, the Founding Fathers, and the issue of slavery...“A Broadway show is not a documentary,” said Gordon-Reed, a history professor in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences who also holds the Charles Warren Professorship of American Legal History at Harvard Law School and the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professorship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

  • CBA 2016: Turning Vision into Action

    September 30, 2016

    Over 800 alumni returned to Harvard Law School for the fourth Celebration of Black Alumni (CBA), Turning Vision into Action. The event brought together generations of black alumni to reconnect with old friends, network with new ones and take part in compelling discussions about the challenges and opportunities in local, national and global communities.

  • Library exhibit looks at the history of the former Harvard Law School shield

    September 16, 2016

    New exhibit documents the shield’s ties to the family of Isaac Royall, Jr., the 18th century slaveholder whose bequest established the first professorship of law at Harvard in 1815, through its removal in the spring of 2016.

  • The intense debates surrounding Hamilton don’t diminish the musical — they enrich it

    September 14, 2016

    An op-ed by Annette Gordon-Reed. By now, very few Americans remain who have not at least heard of the Broadway smash hit Hamilton, which tells the story of America’s first secretary of the Treasury. The vast multitudes who have been unable to score a ticket to see the play have gotten to know it from the chart-topping cast album. Lyrics from the songs have become catchphrases — the determined Hamilton insisting, "I’m not throwing away my shot"; a gleeful Jefferson crowing, after Hamilton did throw away his "shot" (his political career) by publicly confessing to adultery, "Nevah’ gon’ be president now!" That last one was perfect for the 2016 primary season, with candidates falling left and right before the Trump juggernaut...The robust debates about Hamilton will continue as well. Despite the truly astonishing amount of good press the play has received, it has been the subject of a few strong critiques — which have been met with forceful responses. These debates, though informative, seem to me curiously and unfortunately polarized. Defenders of the play often appear to believe that critical discussion of the work must inevitably diminish Miranda’s accomplishment. That is simply not the case.

  • Law School Launches Series on Diversity

    September 8, 2016

    After a year that saw Harvard Law School embroiled in debates over race and diversity, Law School Dean Martha L. Minow has launched a new lecture series entitled “Diversity and U.S. Legal History.” The 10-week series, which kicked off Wednesday, is a joint effort on the part of the Dean’s office and Law School professor Mark Tushnet’s reading group, which bears the same title as the series....The lecturers—who include Law School professors Randall L. Kennedy, Tomiko Brown-Nagin, Annette Gordon-Reed, Michael Klarman, and Kenneth W. Mack, Divinity School professor Diana L. Eck—will discuss topics ranging from race in American history, to challenges facing Latinos, the originalist case for reparations, and religious pluralism...Law School professor Joseph William Singer delivered the first talk—“567 Nations: The History of Federal Indian Law”—to a crowded room Wednesday in the school’s student center. Singer recounted the development of colonial and United States law regarding Native Americans from the 18th century to the present, arguing that certain judicial rulings or government actions were unconstitutional.

  • What would past presidents say about 2016 White House race?

    July 5, 2016

    This 4th of July weekend, "Face the Nation" delves into the minds of past presidents and a great military leader. Authors Annette Gordon Reed, Peter Onuf, Jean Edward Smith, and Doug Brinkley share their insights on presidential politics, past and present.

  • Podcast: Hamilton, the man and the musical

    June 10, 2016

    The 70th Annual Tony Awards will be held in New York City on Sunday, June 12, and the big winner is expected to be Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical adaptation of Ron Chernow’s biography of the famous Founding Father...Joining We the People to remember “the 10-dollar founding father without a father” are two of the nation’s leading legal historians. Annette Gordon-Reed is the Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History at Harvard Law School. She is also the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and a Professor of History in the Harvard Faculty of Arts & Sciences. Michael Klarman is the Kirkland & Ellis Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.

  • Jefferson: Hero or Villain? It’s Complicated.

    June 10, 2016

    In their new book, “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination, historians Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter S. Onuf take another look at the life and legacy of the third president. More a collection of interpretive essays than a cradle-to-grave biography, the book combines a careful analysis of Jefferson’s thought (the focus of Onuf’s influential body of work) with a deft portrayal of his personal life, closely attuned to his intertwined black and white families (the study of which Gordon-Reed revolutionized in her Pulitzer-winning 2008 volume The Hemingses of Monticello). I sat down with the authors to talk about the complexities of their central character, the shallowness of the hypocrisy charge, and the continuing importance of thinking seriously about Jefferson and his contemporaries in the age of “founder chic.”

  • Books of their youth

    May 23, 2016

    ...The Gazette asked a handful of Harvard faculty to talk about a book from their student days that has since gained in resonance or meaning...Annette Gordon-Reed, Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History, Harvard Law School...“John A. Williams’ novel ‘The Man Who Cried I Am’ was very important to me when I was at Dartmouth. I loved how Williams presented black characters in a naturalistic way. They sounded like people I knew. They had aspirations that were familiar, which is not always the case with depictions of African-Americans, which are, too often, one- or two-dimensional. It was also a very deft roman á clef. Richard Wright appears, as does James Baldwin — a not very flattering portrayal of my idol, actually. Williams writes with a kind of freedom in this book that was startling to me, very exciting. I looked at it a few years back, and noticed a few problematic gender issues that I missed. I think were I to read it in total again, I might have a slightly different view of it. But it was perfect for me at the time.”

  • Royall Shield

    A Question of History

    May 10, 2016

    On March 14, the Harvard Corporation voted to retire the Harvard Law School shield, following the recommendation of an HLS committee. The shield is modeled on the family crest of Isaac Royall, whose bequest endowed the first professorship of law at Harvard. Royall was the son of an Antiguan slaveholder.

  • Jefferson

    Inside the World of Jefferson

    May 4, 2016

    Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in History for her book “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family,” Annette Gordon-Reed ’84 first read a biography of Thomas Jefferson as a child—and hasn’t stopped learning and writing about him. The HLS professor, who is also on the faculty at the university and the Radcliffe Institute, spoke to the Bulletin about her latest book, “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination,” co-written with Peter S. Onuf. She discusses her own fascination with and (measured) admiration for the third U.S. president—and the significance of teaching history at the law school.

  • A New Look At Thomas Jefferson: ‘Most Blessed Of Patriarchs’

    April 28, 2016

    These are interesting times for the founding fathers. We’re amid a wholesale rethink of their legacies as they relate to slavery, especially on American campuses. It’s true, of course, of Jefferson: author of the Declaration of Independence and slave-owner. As Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter Onuf write, “It is impossible to understand 18th and 19th century America, and the country the United States has become, without grappling with him and his legacy.” They do so in their new book, “Most Blessed of Patriarchs: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination.”

  • Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of Imagination (audio)

    April 22, 2016

    Thomas Jefferson stature as one of America’s most beloved founding fathers has taken some hits recently. Jefferson authored the Declaration of Independence, espoused ideals of equality, and called slavery “an abominable crime,” yet he was also a slaveholder his entire life and fathered children with the enslaved woman Sally Hemings who he never freed. Renowned Jefferson scholars Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter Onuf have written a new biography of Jefferson that comes to terms with this flawed but brilliant man called “Most Blessed of Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of Imagination. Guest host Marty Cummings-Jordan speaks with Gordon-Reed and Onuf about their book and how they understand this paradoxical figure in our history.

  • ‘Most Blessed Of The Patriarchs’ Digs Into Thomas Jefferson’s Hypocrisy

    April 18, 2016

    Thomas Jefferson is one of America's founders and, even after centuries, a mystery. Annette Gordon-Reed talks about the book she co-wrote with Peter Onuf, Most Blessed of the Patriarchs.

  • A portrait of Thomas Jefferson: brilliant but self-absorbed, troubled

    April 18, 2016

    Thomas Jefferson repeatedly insisted that the private lives of America’s founders should be off limits to historians. In 1817, when a writer asked him about his family, the author of the Declaration of Independence coughed up little information, noting that personal matters “would produce fatigue and disgust to . . . readers.” For generations, scholars agreed and most studies of our third president and his contemporaries focused largely on their political careers. But that taboo started to crumble about a half century ago. And thanks to the pioneering work of Harvard Law School professor Annette Gordon-Reed, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Hemingses of Monticello’’ (2008), we can now readily understand why Jefferson lived in such mortal fear of biographers...In “ ‘Most Blessed of the Patriarchs’: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination,’’ Gordon-Reed and her coauthor, Peter S. Onuf, a professor emeritus of history at the University of Virginia, seek to reassess Jefferson’s legacy, given all the recent discoveries about his long-buried private life.

  • Why 1 Black Professor Wanted To Keep Harvard Law School’s Shield (video)

    April 13, 2016

    In October 2015, Harvard Law School students demanded the removal of the law school's shield because of its ties to a slave owner — Isaac Royall Jr. — who is also credited with helping form the Harvard Law School. Annette Gordon-Reed, law school professor and Thomas Jefferson historian, was one of the only people on a 12-person committee who wanted to keep the school's shield. That committee ultimately voted to retire the shield from the law school in March. We talked to Gordon-Reed about why she thought the school should've kept the shield and why she believes many people weren't receptive to her suggestion.

  • ‘Hamilton’ and History: Are They in Sync?

    April 12, 2016

    As “Hamilton” fever has swept America, historians have hardly been immune....But even among historians who love the musical and its multiethnic cast, a question has also quietly simmered: does “Hamilton” really get Hamilton right?...Annette Gordon-Reed, a professor of history and law at Harvard and the Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of “The Hemingses of Monticello,” put it more bluntly. “One of the most interesting things about the ‘Hamilton’ phenomenon,” she wrote last week on the blog of the National Council on Public History, “is just how little serious criticism the play has received.”...Ms. Gordon-Reed — who is credited with breaking down the resistance among historians to the claim that Thomas Jefferson had a sexual relationship with Sally Hemings — wrote in her response that she shared some of Ms. Monteiro’s qualms, even as she loved the musical and listened to the cast album every day. “Imagine ‘Hamilton’ with white actors,” she wrote. “Would the rosy view of the founding era grate?”

  • ‘Last Lecture’: Annette Gordon-Reed traces her journey from Texas childhood to lawyer and historian

    April 6, 2016

    As part of the Last Lecture Series presented every year by the HLS Class Marshals, Professor Annette Gordon-Reed ’84 spoke about her experiences combining legal analysis and historical research.

  • Thomas Jefferson, Neither God nor Devil

    April 5, 2016

    Thomas Jefferson has long been a lightning rod, but the past year has been tougher on him than usual. Protesters on college campuses have plastered Jefferson statues with Post-it notes reading “racist” and “rapist.” And on Broadway, the musical “Hamilton” has deliciously skewered him as a flamboyantly scheming hypocrite. Still, on a recent afternoon, there was America’s third president, standing serenely on his pedestal in front of the Columbia School of Journalism, flanked by Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter S. Onuf, the authors of the latest book to plumb the mysteries of his character. ... Ms. Gordon-Reed, a professor of history and law at Harvard and the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Hemingses of Monticello,”seconded the point. “People read history the way we watch movies, where you have a good guy and a bad guy,” she said. “What’s the point of even going to the library to do research if you already know what you think?"

  • Austin Hall

    Harvard Corporation agrees to retire HLS shield

    March 14, 2016

    The Harvard Corporation has approved the recommendation of the Harvard Law School Shield Committee to retire the HLS shield, which is modeled on the family crest of an 18th century slaveholder.

  • Process Matters

    March 11, 2016

    On Friday, the committee tasked with considering the future of Harvard Law School’s seal, which some have criticized for its connection to the slaveholding Royall family, recommended that the school change its emblem. While we disagree with the substance of this decision, we respect the process by which HLS reached it. As the committee's report makes clear, this debate is far more nuanced than a simple case of right versus wrong or racial justice versus injustice. The committee explained that faculty, staff, students, and alumni of diverse races, genders, and ages fell on both sides of the issue. Indeed, one of America’s foremost scholars on slavery’s history dissented from the committee’s recommendations.

  • Pulitzer Prize-Winning Historian Joins Colonial Williamsburg Board of Trustees

    March 8, 2016

    The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s board of trustees recently elected historian and scholar Annette Gordon-Reed to the board. Gordon-Reed was the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for History with the publication of her book The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family in 2009. More than a decade earlier, Gordon-Reed broke onto the scene with the publication of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy. That book challenged previous research suggesting Jefferson was not the father of Hemings’ children and came a year ahead of the DNA tests that confirmed a genetic match between Jefferson and Hemings descendants. “Annette’s work illustrates that one scholar’s research can change how we see fundamental individuals and events of that history, and with it our shared American identity,” said Thomas F. Farrell II, chairman of Colonial Williamsburg’s board of trustees and the chairman, president and CEO of Dominion Resources.

  • Harvard Law to Abandon Crest Linked to Slavery

    March 6, 2016

    Harvard Law School is poised to abandon an 80-year-old shield based on the crest of a slaveholding family that helped endow the institution, as campuses across the country debate the use of historic names and symbols that some consider offensive...But it came with a passionate dissent from Annette Gordon-Reed, a professor of legal history who is known for her scholarship on Thomas Jefferson and his relationship with Sally Hemings, his slave. The work of Ms. Gordon-Reed, who had argued that historians had too readily discounted the oral testimony of Hemings’s descendants, was vindicated in 1998 by DNA evidence showing that Jefferson fathered a child by Hemings...In an email Friday, Ms. Gordon-Reed said she had been influenced by her scholarship on Hemings. “This is my life’s work,” she said. “I sincerely believe that we owe it to the enslaved to work through those feelings and think of ways to carry their stories forward. And we should do that in a way that shows the inherently entwined nature of the good and bad of our past, using written text and symbols like the sheaves and, even, buildings like Monticello.”

  • Law School committee recommends retiring current shield

    March 4, 2016

    A committee of Harvard Law School faculty, students, alumni, and staff established in November by Dean Martha Minow has recommended to the Harvard Corporation that the HLS shield — which is modeled on the family crest of an 18th century slaveholder — no longer be the official symbol of Harvard Law School.

  • Case for reparation gains international force

    February 26, 2016

    During a talk Monday at Harvard Law School, Sir Hilary Beckles, a distinguished historian, scholar, and activist from Barbados, made the case for reparations, a discussion that has been re-energized in the U.S. by the Black Lives Matter movement .

  • Case for reparation gains international force

    February 26, 2016

    Forty acres and a mule. The order by Union General William T. Sherman in January 1865, just after the Civil War ended, to offer some recompense to newly freed slaves for the harms they had suffered was a radical, tantalizing promise that never came to be. More than 150 years later, the question of whether nations that benefited from the African slave trade between the 16th and 19th centuries bear a responsibility to provide financial reparations for their crimes — as well as the lasting economic, social, and political damage they caused — remains unsettled. Many political and Civil Rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., have tried to gain traction for the idea periodically over the years, without much success...“This is not about retribution and anger, it’s about atonement; it’s about the building of bridges across lines of moral justice,” said Sir Hilary Beckles, a distinguished historian, scholar, and activist from Barbados, during a talk Monday at Harvard Law School...[Kenneth] Mack and [Annette] Gordon-Reed noted the many real-world opportunities in Boston and across the United States that exist right now for HLS students to facilitate getting reparations for black people through the legal system. “All of us derive a present-day benefit from the oppression, the degradation of human beings. And what should we do as an institution to make reparations for that” is what should be on everyone’s mind in thinking broadly about the concept of reparations, said Mack.

  • HLS Panel Encourages Reparative Justice Over Buried History

    February 23, 2016

    At a time when Harvard finds itself debating the ways controversial history is remembered on campus, Caribbean historian Hilary M. Beckles told a Harvard Law School audience the best way to deal with a thorny past is confronting it head on. “There’s no point in burying the legacy and memories,” Beckles said. “Let us bring everything to the surface and find a way forward through all of this.” Beckles was the keynote speaker at a panel discussion on reparatory justice for Caribbean countries that facilitated the slave trade, and was joined by other Harvard professors on the panel in the Law School’s Ames courtroom..Alexander J. Clayborne, a third-year Law School student who has helped organize protests, attended the event and said he found the talk “powerful,” especially as it pertained to both global and current events at Harvard...Professors Annette Gordon-Reed, Kenneth W. Mack, and Vincent Brown also participated in the panel.

  • The “Little Republics”

    February 20, 2016

    ...What kind of patriarch did this American founder wish and imagine himself to be? ask two eminent Jefferson scholars. In their fascinating, subtle, and deeply insightful new book, Annette Gordon-Reed, Warren professor of American legal history at Harvard Law School and professor of history, and Peter S. Onuf, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation professor emeritus at the University of Virginia, seek to understand, as dispassionately as possible, how Jefferson gave meaning to his existence, how he wished to be perceived by others, how he shaped his private and public lives, and how he reconciled in his own mind his status as a slave-owner with his immortal words that “all men are created equal.”

  • Committee exploring whether Harvard Law School shield should be changed

    November 30, 2015

    Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow has announced the creation of a committee to research if the school should continue to use its current shield. The shield is the coat of arms of the family of Isaac Royall, whose bequest endowed the first professorship of law at Harvard.

  • Harvard Law School Will Reconsider Its Controversial Seal

    November 30, 2015

    On the heels of an incident of racially-charged vandalism on campus, Harvard Law School Dean Martha L. Minow has appointed a committee to reconsider the school’s controversial seal—the crest of the former slaveholding Royall family that endowed Harvard’s first law professorship in the 19th century...Law professor Bruce H. Mann will serve as the chair of the committee, according to Minow’s email. Mann will be joined by Law professors Tomiko Brown-Nagin, Annette Gordon-Reed, Janet E. Halley, and Samuel Moyn...Two students and an alumnus will also serve on the committee.

  • photo of four people standing together

    Harvard Law School launches the Campaign for the Third Century

    November 2, 2015

    With a nod to its historic past and a look ahead to its future, Harvard Law School has formally launched the Campaign for the Third Century, which seeks to raise $305 million in support of students and faculty, clinical education, new and innovative research, and the continued enhancement of the Law School campus.

  • Islamici e cristiani non si odiano, la maggioranza vuole la pace”

    May 22, 2015

    (Muslims and Christians do not hate each other , the majority want peace.) An interview with Annette Gordon-Reed.