Professor Annette Gordon-Reed ’84 wins a MacArthur Fellowship (audio)

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced that Annette Gordon-Reed ’84, an award-winning historian, is one of 23 recipients of the 2010 MacArthur Fellowship, more commonly known as the MacArthur “Genius Award.”

Gordon-Reed—the recipient of the National Humanities Medal, the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award—was recognized for dramatically changing the course of Jeffersonian scholarship. Gordon-Reed joined the Harvard faculty in July 2010 as a professor of law at Harvard Law School, a professor of history in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

“I’m enormously grateful and humbled to be given this award,” said Gordon-Reed. “Of course I’ve known about MacArthur fellowships for many years and wondered what it would be like to have someone call out of the blue and tell you you’ve won something like that. Now I know, and I have to say it’s a very good feeling.”

AUDIO: Gordon-Reed discusses her future projects on NPR’s ‘Morning Edition:’

Said Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow: “Professor Gordon-Reed’s remarkable work will be read for generations because of its originality, scrupulousness, rigor, and imagination. We are thrilled that she has joined the Harvard faculty, where she has already brought the Law School, history department, and Radcliffe Institute into happy collaboration.”

According to the MacArthur Foundation, the MacArthur fellows program is intended “to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations.” The foundation awards fellowships directly to individuals rather than through institutions. Gordon-Reed will receive a five-year grant worth $500,000.

In 2009, Gordon-Reed was awarded the National Humanities Medal and the Pulitzer Prize in history for her book, “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family,” which examines four generations of a slave family owned by Thomas Jefferson. She also won the National Book Award in nonfiction for the same work in 2008.

She is the author of several books, including another about Thomas Jefferson entitled, “Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy,” which examines the scholarly writing on the relationships between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. With the publication of that book in 1997, Gordon-Reed sparked new debate on the Jefferson-Hemings relationship by examining how the issue had been presented by Jefferson’s many biographers. In particular, she took on denials that such a relationship may have existed.

Two more books: “Jefferson: A Reader on Race” and “Andrew Johnson,” are forthcoming. In addition to her extensive writing on slavery and Thomas Jefferson, Gordon-Reed is also the co-author of “Vernon Can Read!: A Memoir” (2001), which was written with Vernon Jordan, Jr. and received the Anisfield-Wolf book award. She is editor of “Race on Trial: Law and Justice in American History” (2002).

Among Gordon-Reed’s many honors are: a Guggenheim Fellowship in the Humanities (2009); a Fellowship at the Cullman Center at the New York Public Library (2010-1011), NOW’s Woman of Power and Influence Award (1999); the NYLS Otto Walter Prize for best faculty publication of 1999 and 2008; the Bridging the Gap Award, recognizing her efforts to foster racial reconciliation (2000); Columbia University’s Barbara A. Black lectureship (2001); the Trailblazer Award from the Metropolitan Black Bar Association (2001); Old Dominion Fellowship at Princeton University (2002); and selection as a National Book Award judge in the nonfiction category.

A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, she also serves on the Thomas Jefferson Foundation’s Advisory Committee for the Robert Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies; on the advisory group on African-American Interpretation at Monticello; on the executive committee of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson at Princeton University; on the board of directors of the American Society for Legal History; and on the advisory council of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, among other professional affiliations.

Prior to becoming an academic, Gordon-Reed was counsel to the New York City Board of Correction from 1987 to 1992. In this capacity, she helped to formulate policies, grievance procedures, and legislation affecting inmates. After graduation from HLS, Gordon-Reed was an associate at Cahill Gordon & Reindel in New York.

In addition to her J.D., Gordon-Reed holds an A.B. from Dartmouth College in history and an honorary Doctor of Letters from Ramapo College. She received an honorary degree from the College of William and Mary in May.