Annette Gordon-Reed's 'Genius' Pursuit





Annette Gordon-Reed's lifelong interest in history became the platform for a curious phone call she received this fall. "I was stunned," she told The Root. "I was totally expecting to hear [someone else] on the other end, and then [an unfamiliar voice] said, 'Are you by yourself?' Yes. 'And are you sitting down?' " The man was calling to let her know that she was being granted the MacArthur Fellowship, that she would be given $500,000 and that she had to keep it a secret for about two weeks.

Gordon-Reed was given the Genius Award for her work in researching, evaluating and writing about a part of American history that many never wanted critically examined -- namely, the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and the enslaved young woman Sally Hemings. Gordon-Reed has written two books on the subject -- Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (1997) and the 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winning The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family -- and is currently working on the third in this series. Her first book took a year to write, but a lifetime to come to fruition....

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