Books We're Reading: The Hemingses of Monticello
The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, Annette Gordon-Reed, W. W. Norton & Co., 798 pages, hardcover, 2008.
This epic work tells the story of the Hemingses, whose close blood ties to our third president had been systematically expunged from American history until very recently. Now, historian and legal scholar Annette Gordon-Reed traces the Hemings family from its origins in Virginia in the 1700s to the family's dispersal after Jefferson's death in 1826. It brings to life not only Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson but also their children and Hemings's siblings, who shared a father with Jefferson's wife, Martha. The Hemingses of Monticello sets the backdrop of Revolutionary America, Paris on the eve of its own revolution, 1790s Philadelphia, and plantation life at Monticello. Much anticipated, this book promises to be the most important history of an American slave family ever written. Winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for historical biography.
About the Author
Annette Gordon-Reed is Professor of Law and History at Harvard, and the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for History in 2009, the first African-American to win that honor, and in 2010 she received the National Humanities Medal. In September 2010 Gordon-Reed was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, also known as a "genius grant." She is currently at work on the second volume of the Hemings family history.
Annette Gordon-Reed on Who were the Hemingses?
(from an interview at Monticello's Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies)
- Rebroadcast of Annette Gordon-Reed: "The Hemingses of Monticello" (The Diane Rehm Show, July 3, 2009)
Jefferson's Concubine (NY Review of Books/Edmund S. Morgan and Marie Morgan)
The Master and the Mistress (New York Times Sunday Book Review/Eric Foner)
Table of Contents
Chronology of the Hemings family
Part I. ORIGINS:
1. Young Elizabeth's world
2. John Wayles: the immigrant
3. The children of no one
4. Thomas Jefferson
5. The first Monticello
6. In the home of a revolutionary
Part II. "THE VAUNTED SCENE OF EUROPE":
7. "A particular purpose"
8. James Hemings: the provincial abroad
9. "Isabel or Sally will come"
10. Dr. Sutton
11. The rhythms of the city
12. The eve of revolution
13. "During that time"
14. Sarah Hemings: the fatherless girl in a patriarchal society
15. The teenagers and the woman
16. "His promise, on which she implicitly relied"
17. "The treaty" and "did they love each other?"
18. The return
Part III. ON THE MOUNTAIN:
19. Hello and goodbye
21. The brothers
24. The second Monticello
25. Into the future, echoes from the past
26. The ocean of life
27. The public world and the private domain
28. "Measurably happy": the children of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings
29. Retirement for one, not for all
30. Endings and beginnings
Related Items in Our Catalog
Related Items in Our Collection
Getting Word (oral histories of the descendants of Monticello's enslaved families)