November 22, 2008
Annette Gordon-Reed ’84 won this year’s National Book Award for nonfiction for “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family,” which examines three generations of a slave family owned by Thomas Jefferson.
“I can’t say what a wonderful November this has been,” Gordon-Reed said as she accepted her award at a ceremony on November 19. “It’s sort of wonderful to have the book come out at this time. People ask me if I planned it this way; I didn’t. All of America — we’re on a great journey now and I look forward to the years to come.”
Gordon-Reed’s newest book was widely acclaimed in the press. The New York Review of Books hailed her as “one of the most astute, insightful, and forthright historians of this generation.”
A professor at New York Law School, 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.