Comments on: That’s Professor Genius to you: Annette Gordon-Reed wins MacArthur grant History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Sat, 20 Sep 2014 21:04:18 +0000 hourly 1 By: Jane Doe Mon, 29 Nov 2010 04:18:53 +0000 When I realized that Annette Gordon Reed had written a second novel on her analysis of the Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings saga, I admit that I did wonder why. After reading her explanation, I do admire her reasons. She stated that she needed to relate the story in a dignified manner on behalf of those who basically had their dignity stolen away from them.

It is impressive that even before the DNA test results were made public, Annette Gordon Reed presented a convincing argument that Thomas Jefferson may have been the father of Sally Hemings’s children despite a very hostile environment at the time.

What fascinates me about some that oppose the idea that Jefferson could be the father of these children is the obsession they have with presenting the same stagnated, and often somewhat ridiculous argument.

To imply that at 65, Jefferson could not father a child due to his advanced age and alleged disabilities (Charlie Chaplin fathered a child at 74) seems unrealistic.

Some of the naysayers insist on referring to the refusal of Madison Hemings’s descendants to exhume Madison’s son William for DNA testing. If they have ever included in their research an observation of the online images of Madison Hemings’s grandchildren, then it is obvious that they have refused to acknowledge the uncanny resemblance of his descendants to Thomas Jefferson. Such a remarkable resemblance would seem to increase the likelihood of a Jefferson lineage. This makes the Carr argument seem like an act of desperation.

To imply that his impeccable character would prevent him from engaging in an affair with Sally Hemings when he was known to have made inappropriate advances to a best friend’s wife and have an illicit liaisons with another married woman, seems like self-righteous denial.

The arguments which attempt to present him as a compassionate slave owner are legitimate when it is considered he at one time proposed legislation to call for the abolition of slavery. However, his actions later in his life resulting in him hunting down runaway slaves, offering rewards for them, and having them whipped seems to emphasize that he was a complicated man full of contradictions.

Many of his defenders tend to routinely criticize the people at Monticello for presenting his faults alleged, or factual, but will never seem to give credit to the good work that the people at Monticello do of promoting the good things he did in life. I think when one leaves Monticello they have an overwhelming appreciation for the contributions he made to the country.

However, Despite the efforts of Monticello and others to present a balanced argument, it seems as though some of his defenders will never cease to continue being obsessed with presenting a redundant argument which due to its foundation of bitterness and denial seems to prevent a qualitative approach.

The reason why Annette Gordon Reed has earned the pulitzer on her latest analysis of this subject matter is because of the quality of her presentation.
I can appreciate a good argument, whether I agree or disagree and Annette Gordon Reed gives one. Congratulations on the Pulitzer.

By: Annette Gordon-Reed and the Jefferson-Hemings Relationship « Jacksonian America: Society, Personality, and Politics Mon, 11 Oct 2010 11:06:50 +0000 [...] relationship and the Hemings family, discussed in a Gilder Lehrman lecture here. Gordon-Reed also hangs out in the blogosphere, as seen in the comments section of Historiann’s [...]

By: Ben Taylor Fri, 08 Oct 2010 13:30:17 +0000 Annette Gordon-Reed, who will be our Film Festival post-screening guest for Amistad, October 19, just received a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, more commonly known as the “genius grant,” given each year to 20 people in various fields of excellence in the sciences, arts, and humanities. She is Professor of Law and Professor of History at Harvard and the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at Radcliffe. She won both a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, about Sally Hemings’ relationship with Thomas Jefferson and the descendants of their union. We are thrilled for Professor Gordon-Reed, and we know that our audience will appreciate hearing a recent MacArthur winner speak on the stage of the Film Festival.

By: Historiann Thu, 07 Oct 2010 20:20:29 +0000 Wow–that’s quite a story, ga. Thanks for stopping by, Virginia Scharff and CMG. It’s clear that Gordon-Reed’s work is innovative and widely appreciated–even career-making or career-changing!

By: ga Thu, 07 Oct 2010 20:01:07 +0000 One of the moments that led to my going on to the doctorate was thanks to AGR. A well-respected prof of mine recommended that I read “this amazing new book!” The book, “Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy” was one I’d heard of but what startled me was that this impressive scholar and old-family Virginia gentleman was raving about its importance in the hallway. This was the same man who in senior seminar the year before had dismissed such talk about his hero (and somehow distantly related kinsman) as “just not something he would do—it went on, certainly, but Jefferson just wouldn’t.”

He loaned me his copy, insisted that I read it and come and tell him what I thought. I did and found out that he was even a better scholar than I already thought he was. I got a great dissection of the book at a level I hadn’t experienced before and, even better, learned a lot about what he called “facing up to your own biases, received ‘wisdom,’ and the importance of always keeping your mind open.” So, enjoy that MacArthur Prof. Gordon-Reed and thanks for the inadvertant professional training as well!

By: CMG Thu, 07 Oct 2010 16:37:06 +0000 This may be coming a little late in the action of this posting but incredibly strong academic, Shannon Lee Dawdy, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago also received the MacArthur grant this year. Her work has done great things for New Orleans but her focus on the mutability of gender categories and stereotypes in early French colonial Louisiana is particularly fascinating!

By: Virginia Scharff Wed, 06 Oct 2010 19:19:39 +0000 Thanks, Annette, for the shout-out. I’m really impressed with the scope and quality of discussion on this blog, and will be a regular reader from now on. Annette’s work, and that of Cinder Stanton at Monticello and Susan Kern at William and Mary have given us so many new insights into Jefferson. I hope to make a contribution with my book, THE WOMEN JEFFERSON LOVED, coming out Oct. 26. I honestly think the time has come to stop arguing about whether Sally Hemings, and for that matter, all the women Jefferson cared about most, mattered in his life. Now it’s time to ask how they mattered, not simply for his private experience, but for his grand public legacy.

By: Historiann Wed, 06 Oct 2010 15:37:46 +0000 All of that, plus racism plus ressentiment that an African American woman dared take on the Jefferson establishment and beat them at their own game.

Many people still believe in the Great Chain of Being a la John Winthrop. They think seeing and writing history from the point of view of an enslaved woman is by definition illegitimate. They believe that history should be about (as the title of my old children’s World Book put it) Great Men and Famous Deeds.

We should welcome their hatred and resentment. If we don’t earn it, maybe we’re not doing history correctly.

By: annajcook Wed, 06 Oct 2010 13:51:02 +0000 As a librarian at the Massachusetts Historical Society I happened to see an advance review copy we were sent of a book of essays supposedly “defending” Jeffersonby arguing it was impossible that he had a relationship with Sally Hemings. Aside from all of its myriad scholarly problems, what struck me most about the volume was its overall tone; the idea that suggesting Thomas Jefferson had a relationship with Sally Hemings somehow tarnishes his character. And that it is our patriotic duty to protect the “image” of these iconic men of American history from … what? The possible (and fairly well-established evidential fact) that a white man slept with a black woman? That they had children together? That a former president had a non-marital sexual relationship with someone after his wife’s death?

I’m really confused and frustrated by the controversial nature of Gordon-Reed’s exhaustively documented, beautifully argued case. What about it is so upsetting to its detractors? The idea that people in the past led complicated lives?

By: William G. Hyland Jr. Tue, 05 Oct 2010 19:40:41 +0000 ‘In Defense of Thomas Jefferson’ Debunks Jefferson-Slave Sex Scandal
The belief that Thomas Jefferson had an affair and fathered a child (or children) with slave Sally
Hemings—and that such an allegation was proven by DNA testing—has become so pervasive in American popular culture that it is not only widely accepted but taught to students as historical fact. But as William G. Hyland, Jr., demonstrates, this “fact” is nothing more than the
accumulation of salacious rumors and irresponsible scholarship over the years, much of it inspired by political grudges, academic opportunism, and the trend of historical revisionism that seeks to drag the reputation of the Founding Fathers through the mud. In this startling new book, Hyland shows not only that the evidence against Jefferson is lacking, but in fact he is entirely
innocent of the charge of having sexual relations with Hemings.

A “thorough survey of the scholarly and scientific literature … Mr. Hyland, a lawyer, presents the historical record carefully and, closer to our day, provides marvelous details of the scholarly empire-building and grantsmanship that go into making ‘fact’ out of limited evidence — in this case and others. By the end of ‘In Defense of Thomas Jefferson,’ it is hard not to conclude that, given the revisionist impulses of American
historians today, Jefferson should have put pen to paper after all,” says Thomas Lipscomb, The Wall Street