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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[…]

Annette Gordon-Reed tells why she wrote the book.

Gordon-Reed:    Vernon can read!  Well, Mr. Jordan worked when he was in college in the summers, he worked as a chauffeur for men who was a sort of old time segregationist.  And once he was serving this man and his family, and he’s actually, he came upon Mr. Jordan and looking at him reading a book and he was shocked and he sort of announced to his family Vernon can read because he hadn’t had anybody who work for him whom he really thought can actually read a book.  I mean, you know, reading a few things but actually reading and Vernon can read.  And so he, that always struck him a sort of emblematic of how people underestimate blacks and underestimated him.  You know, Vernon can read and so he always said, “If I ever write a book about myself, that’s going to be my title.”  So that’s was that was.  It was about his sort of, like, his triumph over the kinds of attitudes that suggested that he was not supposed to do anything but be a servant and a literate servant at that.