Harvard University; Harvard Law School; Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study
Humanities and Arts
Known for two books: Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (1997) and The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (2008). Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings garnered enormous attention in the press and in the scholarly world, making a stronger case than anyone previously had done that Thomas Jefferson had fathered children with his slave, Sally Hemings. DNA testing corroborated Gordon-Reed's historical analysis the year after the book's publication, and the scholarly consensus on the question shifted in favor of the truth. The story of Hemings and Jefferson is now an accepted part of the scholarship on Jefferson and the early American Republic and at Monticello the public history site dedicated to telling the story of Jefferson's life. The Hemingses of Monticello, a work of historical retrieval and imagination, focuses on the stories of the individual members of the Hemings family and retells Jefferson's life story in the process. The book won the 2008 National Book Award, the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in History, and other prizes. In 2010 she was the recipient of the National Humanities Medal and was named a MacArthur Fellow.