Annette Gordon-Reed on the Public Perception of Jefferson and Hemmings
Annette Gordon-Reed is a professor of law at New York Law School and a professor of history at Rutgers. She earned a place in history with her first book, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy, which had an acclaimed but stormy reception when published in 1997, and which The New Yorker described as “brilliant.” She is recognized as one of our country’s most distinguished presidential scholars.Gordon-Reed spent her early career as an associate at Cahill Gordon & Reindel, and as Counsel to the New York City Board of Corrections. She speaks or moderates at numerous conferences across the country on history and law-related topics. Gordon-Reed is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School, where she was a member of the Law Review. She lives in Manhattan with her husband, daughter, and son.
Gordon-Reed: Well, certainly, Jefferson’s neighbors talked about it. There are, you know, in letters and various things and I referenced them in the book and other people have talked about it and this was sort of… it was an open secret. It was something that was talked about during his time. Now, people like James Madison would never, this is a kind of stuff would never be referenced in any kind of letters or James Monroe, people like that, but neighbors in Charlottesville were talking about this and talking about it in their letters. One of Jefferson’s friends, close friend John Hartwell Cocke was a person who wrote about this in a personal diary. So, people knew this, but as I said, it’s not the kind of thing that the family would write about.
The Charlottesville community was certainly aware of their relationship Annette Gordon-Reed says.
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