Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Annette Gordon-Reed wins MacArthur Fellowship

Annette Gordon-Reed
Annette Gordon-Reed has an important new honor to add to her long list of recent accolades:  a MacArthur Fellowship, sometimes called the "genius award." In 2010 she was awarded the National Humanities Medal. In 2009, her lastest book The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the George Washington Book Award, and she was also awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.

From the MacArthur Foundation website:
Annette Gordon-Reed is a legal scholar and historian whose persistent investigation into the life of an iconic American president has dramatically changed the course of Jeffersonian scholarship. Fascinated from childhood by the Jefferson family, Gordon-Reed began a comprehensive re-examination of the evidence about the rumored committed relationship between Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings. Independent of her responsibilities as a law professor, she wrote her first book, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (1997). While the liaison had been widely alleged contemporaneously and since, it was also largely dismissed, then and later, by archivists and historians. Although she is not a formally trained historian, Gordon-Reed drew on her legal training to apply context and reasonable interpretation to the sparse documentation about the shared lives of her protagonists at Monticello, in London, and in Paris. After publication, An American Controversy was received skeptically by some, but her conclusions were confirmed in 1998 when DNA evidence supported the documentary evidence of Jefferson’s genetic paternity. Gordon-Reed has continued her inquiry into colonial interracial relations in The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (2008), which follows the Hemings family through the nineteenth century and along markedly different paths of racial assimilation and integration. In disentangling the complicated history of two distinct founding families’ interracial bloodlines, Gordon-Reed is shaping and enriching American history with an authentic portrayal of our colonial past.

Gordon-Reed discusses her work as a law professor and historian here.

Gordon-Reed moved to Harvard Law School last year, after teaching for many years at New York Law School, where she was the Wallace Stevens Professor of Law and Rutgers, Newark, where she was Board of Governors Professor of History. As the rest of the nation has honored her, Gordon-Reed continues to be active in legal history, serving on the Board of the American Society for Legal History.