Professor Annette Gordon-Reed (History, Rutgers University, Photo by Jerry Bauer from here) has been awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in history for her book, The Hemingses of Monticello: AnAmerican Family (W. W. Norton, 2008). 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.” As you may or may not recall, Sally Hemings was the half-sister of Thomas Jefferson’s wife and the mother of 7 of Thomas Jefferson’s children.
The history Pulitzer is awarded for a “distinguished and appropriately documented book on the history of the United States” (h/t BlackInformant via Twitter).
This is noteworthy here because Gordon-Reed’s work touches on many of the themes that we’ve discussed here on this blog. Some of those themes include slavery, interracial rape, the centrality of race in the founding of the U.S., and the way that this history is woven into the fabric of the nation. It’s auspicious that the Pulitzer committee recognized this work. And, not least of all, it’s significant that this book is written by an African American woman reclaiming the often forgotten history of other African American women, such as Sally Hemings.