Rutgers University, Newark, Professor Annette Gordon-Reed Receives 2009 Pulitzer Prize in History for The Hemingses Of Monticello: An American Family

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(Newark, N.J., April 20, 2009) – Rutgers University History Professor Annette Gordon-Reed has been awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in history for her landmark work, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (W. W. Norton, 2008).  The award was announced this afternoon by the Pulitzer board. In its citation, the board praised The Hemingses of Monticello as “a painstaking exploration of a sprawling multi-generation slave family that casts provocative new light on the relationship between Sally Hemings and her master, Thomas Jefferson.” The history Pulitzer is awarded for a “distinguished and appropriately documented book on the history of the United States.”  The Pulitzer carries a $10,000 award.         

“Everyone at Rutgers is thrilled to congratulate Annette Gordon-Reed for winning the Pulitzer Prize in history, an honor she most richly deserves,” said Rutgers University President Richard L. McCormick. “The Hemingses of Monticello is a groundbreaking work from a truly original and supremely gifted scholar and writer.” 

This is the second major national honor for The Hemingses of Monticello; the book received the National Book Award for non-fiction in the fall of 2008.  The work focuses on the Hemings family, beginning with Sally’s mother and ending with Jefferson’s death.  The Hemingses of Monticello was Gordon-Reed’s second examination of the Jefferson-Hemings relationship, which she first detailed in her 1997 book, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy.

Photo by Jerry Bauer

In addition to her post at Rutgers University, Newark, Annette Gordon-Reed is a professor of law at New York Law School.  The legal scholar and historian is also the editor of Race On Trial: Law and Justice in American History, and coauthor with Vernon Jordan of Vernon Can Read: A Memoir. Gordon-Reed is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School. 

Although Sally Hemings is best known for her intimate relationship with Thomas Jefferson, and as the mother of seven of his children, The Hemingses of Monticello, says Gordon-Reed, is about far more than a relationship between the Hemings family and Jefferson. In her words, it is “a window into the world of slavery, an illumination of our past, a past that brought us to where we are today.”

 Gordon-Reed is currently at work on a second volume of history of the Hemings family, extending the story to the 20th century descendants who have played a vigorous role in gaining official recognition as relatives of Thomas Jefferson; and on a biography of Jefferson.

Media Contact: Helen Paxton

Contact: Carla Capizzi