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Another Prestigious Literary Honor for Rutgers University, Newark, Professor Annette Gordon-Reed: the 2009 George Washington Book Prize for “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family”
Receives Prize on Same Day as Pulitzer Awards Ceremony
Photo by Jerry Bauer; available upon request.
(Newark, N.J., May 29, 2009) – Rutgers University History Professor Annette Gordon-Reed has won a third prestigious award, the $50,000 George Washington Book Prize, for her landmark work, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (W. W. Norton, 2008). The prize is awarded annually for the “most important book on America's founding era.” The award jurors stated, "The Hemingses of Monticello answers important questions about America's founding generation" and “offers insight into a matter central to the early Republic and its most famous personage, helping us to appreciate the contradiction Jefferson lived and bequeathed to generations to come."
Gordon-Reed received the prize on May 28, the same day that she received her Pulitzer Prize in history for The Hemingses of Monticello.
The Washington Book Prize, which was presented during ceremonies at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home, is co-sponsored by Washington College, the Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History and George Washington's' Mount Vernon.
“Once again Annette Gordon-Reed has brought honor and distinction to Rutgers through her significant contribution to American history,” said Rutgers University President Richard L. McCormick. “I join the entire Rutgers community in congratulating her; The Hemingses of Monticello is a groundbreaking work from a truly original and supremely gifted scholar and writer.”
Gordon-Reed ‘s The Hemingses of Monticello was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in history in April, and the National Book Award for non-fiction in the fall of 2008, achieving what the May 29 Washington Post described as “a literary Triple Crown.” 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.
The $50,000 award is the largest prize nationwide for a book on early American history, and one of the largest literary prizes of any kind. It recognizes the year's best books on the nation's founding era, especially those that have the potential to advance broad public understanding of American history. "Deeply researched and beautifully written, this magnificent book recenters our whole idea of the founding era and of race in American history," said James G. Basker, president of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, which funds the award.
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.
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