Annette Gordon-Reed: Awarded a 2010 MacArthur FellowshipRoundup
On September 28, 2010, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation named legal scholar, historian, and Harvard Professor Annette Gordon-Reed as one of the recipients of the 2010 MacArthur Fellowship, known as the MacArthur"Genius" Award/Grant. This past year Gordon-Reed also received the National Humanities Medal. She won the Pulitzer Prize and Frederick Douglass Book Prize in 2009, and the National Book Award in 2008 for"The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family."
Professor of law at Harvard Law School, Professor of history in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and the Carol
K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Havard University, July 2010--
By Annette Gordon-Reed
Lee C. Bollinger, President of Columbia University, presents the 2009 History prize to Annette Gordon-Reed.
Jefferson was an inveterate record-keeper. So, there is actually a good amount of information about certain members of the family. I thought,"Well, why not draw on that, along with information from other sources?" I could do something that is rarely done: present a portrait of slavery through the eyes of enslaved people. The more I looked at the record, the more convinced I became that this approach might be useful to scholars and informative to the public in general.
...I really wanted to get a sense of, and convey to readers, the way slavery worked in the day-to-day lives of people. We know what the big picture of slavery meant to the enslaved. But I wanted people to understand that this was not just the oppression of a nameless mass of people. It blighted the lives of millions of individuals in ways that we can feel, if we allow ourselves to do that. I want readers to identify with, say, Robert Hemings, who had a wife away from Monticello and wanted to be with her and their children. The tension between him and Jefferson as he negotiated his freedom so that he could join his family, I think, puts a really human face on the toll slavery took on family life. We know the poignant drama of enforced separations. But here we see a more quiet desperation: we have a husband and father using what means were at his disposal to be able to live with his family. Or Mary Hemings who asked to be sold away from Monticello to live on Main Street in Charlottesville with Thomas Bell, a prosperous white merchant who left her and their children his house and property. And then you compare them to the other enslaved people down the mountain—the majority of people at Monticello—who had few real chances to affect their lives in meaningful ways. We see the differences in individual circumstances while understanding that there was no"good" or"easy" way to be enslaved.... -- Excerpted from: Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family Interview conducted by Meehan Crist, National Book Foundation, 2008
About Annette Gordon-Reed
This year's finalists were selected from a field of over fifty entries by a jury of scholars that included Robert Bonner (Dartmouth College), Rita Roberts (Scripps College), and Pier Larson (Johns Hopkins University). The winner was selected by a review committee of representatives from the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and Yale University.
"In Annette Gordon Reed's The Hemingses of Monticello, an enslaved Virginia family is delivered — but not disassociated — from Thomas Jefferson's well-known sexual liaison with Sally Hemings," says Bonner, the 2009 Douglass Prize Jury Chair and Associate Professor of History at Dartmouth College."The book judiciously blends the best of recent slavery scholarship with shrewd commentary on the legal structure of Chesapeake society before and after the American Revolution. Its meticulous account of the mid-eighteenth century intertwining of the black Hemingses and white Wayles families sheds new light on Jefferson's subsequent conjoining with a young female slave who was already his kin by marriage. By exploring those dynamic commitments and evasions that shaped Monticello routines, the path- breaking book provides a testament to the complexity of human relationships within slave societies and to the haphazard possibilities for both intimacy and betrayal." -- Press Release, The 2009 Douglass Prize
Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow:"I celebrate the fact that Annette Gordon-Reed has accepted our invitation to join the Harvard Law School faculty. Her extraordinary scholarship combines intensive archival research, brilliant lawyerly analysis, and tremendous historical imagination as well as a gift for writing riveting prose. Long proud of our own graduate, we here at the law school are delighted she will join our faculty and also participate in the life of the University through affiliations with Radcliffe and the history department. Colleagues, students, and aspiring scholars rejoice over the chance to work with her as she deepens historical understanding of law, slavery, and the human experience."
Barbara J. Grosz, dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study:"I'm thrilled that Annette Gordon-Reed will join us as the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute. I very much look forward to her participation in the Institute’s Fellowship Program and the activities of our Academic Engagement Programs."
Michael D. Smith, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences:"I'm very pleased that a scholar of Annette Gordon-Reed's ability and depth will be joining the History Department. And I am excited that Harvard College students will have the opportunity to learn directly from an award-winning historian and renowned legal scholar." -- Harvard Law School
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