Top Newsmakers: This Week… Julian Zelizer: Assessing the Bush Presidency & “Decision Points” in the Media

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor/Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Her blog is History Musings

This past week President George W. Bush released his highly anticipated memoirs, “Decision Points.” To coincide with the release of Bush’s memoirs, Julian Zelizer, Professor of History and Public Affairs at Princeton University has edited “The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment,” (Princeton University Press, 2010). Zelizer’s book released last month is the first scholarly work that attempts to analyze and place Bush’s presidency and legacy into historical perspective. Zelizer this past week has also been the media’s number one scholarly source as they attempt to put Bush’s memoirs into a broader context. He has given a live chat on the Washington Post’s website, has given radio interviews, was interviewed by BBC and the Danish media, been quoted on MTV, has hosted a book signing of his own book, and has analyzed Decision Points in an TV interview on PBS’s Newshour.


Teaching Position: Professor of History and Public Affairs, Princeton University, 2007-Present. Faculty Associate, Center for the Study for the Study of Democratic Politics, 2007-Present.
Area of Research: American political history
Education: Ph.D., Department of History, The Johns Hopkins University, 1996;
M.A., with four Distinctions, Department of History, The Johns Hopkins University, 1993;
B.A., Summa Cum Laude with Highest Honors in History, Brandeis University, 1991.
Major Publications: Zelizer is the author of Jimmy Carter (New York: Times Books, 2010); Conservatives in Power: The Reagan Years, 1981-1989 (Boston: Bedford, 2010); Arsenal of Democracy: The Politics of National Security–From World War II to the War on Terrorism (New York: Basic Books, 2010); On Capitol Hill: The Struggle to Reform Congress and its Consequences, 1948-2000 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004; paperback edition 2006). The book was featured on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal and Comcast’s Books of Our Times. Taxing America: Wilbur D. Mills, Congress, and the State, 1945-1975 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998; paperback edition 2000). Winner of the Organization of American Historians 2000 Ellis Hawley Prize for Best Book on the Political Economy, Politics, and Institutions of the United States and the Lyndon B. Johnson Foundation’s 1998 D.B. Hardeman Prize for Best Publication on Congress.
Julian E. Zelizer JPG Zelizer is the editor of The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment (Princeton University Press, 2010); Co-Editor, The Constitution and Public Policy in U.S. History. Co-editor with Bruce Schulman (University Park: Penn State Press, 2009). This book was previously published as a special issue of the Journal of Policy History; Co-Editor, Rightward Bound: Making America Conservative in the 1970s. Co-editor with Bruce Schulman (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008); Editor, New Directions in Policy History (University Park, PA: Penn State Press, 2005). This book was previously published as a special issue of the Journal of Policy History. Editor, The American Congress: The Building of Democracy (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004). This book was named as a 2005 Choice Outstanding Academic Title. Co-Editor, The Democratic Experiment: New Directions in American Political History. Coedited with Meg Jacobs and William Novak (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003).
Zelizer holds editor positions, as the Co-Editor, Politics and Society in Twentieth Century America book series, Princeton University Press, 2002-Present, and is part of the Editorial Board, The Journal of Policy History, 2002-Present.
Zelizer is currently working on the following book projects: What’s Good for Business. Co-Editor with Kimberly Phillips-Fein. Under contract with Oxford University Press; Building a Great Society: LBJ, Congress, and the Transformation of American Government. Under contract with Penguin Press.
Zelizer is also the author of numerous scholarly journal articles, book chapters and reviews; for a full listing of publications see CV
Awards: Zelizer is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
Featured on Emmy Award Winner, Great Moments from the Campaign Trail, History Channel, 2008;
Member, PEN American Center, 2006-Present;
John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, 2006-2007;
Named as one of the “Top Young Historians” by the History News Network, 2005;
Telly Award. The Telly Award, which is the premier award honoring outstanding cable Programs, was given to the program Books of Our Time for the episode that Focused on my book, On Capitol Hill, 2005;
The Harry Middleton Fellowship in Presidential Studies, Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation, 2005;
Moody Grant, Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation, 2004;
Mellon Visiting Senior Scholar, University of Cambridge, 2004;
Dirksen Congressional Center Special Projects Research Grant, 2001;
Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, Research Fellowship, 2000;
National Endowment for the Humanities, Summer Research Stipend Award, 2000;
Harvard University Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy, Goldsmith Research Award, 1999;
Dirksen Congressional Center Research Grant, 1999;
The Carl Albert Center, University of Oklahoma, Visiting Scholars Grant, 1999;
University at Albany, Support Grant for the Journal of MultiMedia History, 1999;
Student Choice Award, Enthusiasm in Teaching, University at Albany Student Association, 1999;
United University Professions Professional Development Program Grant, 1998;
Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute Grant, 1997;
Hagley Museum and Library, Grant-in-Aid, 1997;
Finalist, Distinguished Dissertation Award in the Field of Humanities and Fine Arts 1996 Council of Graduate Schools/University Microfilms International.
Additional Info:
Formerly Professor of History, Boston University, 2004-2007;
Faculty Associate, Center for American Political Studies, Harvard University, 2004-2007; Associate Professor, Department of Public Administration and Policy, State University of New York at Albany, 2002-2004. Joint appointment with the Department of Political Science;
Affiliated Faculty, Center of Policy Research, State University of New York at Albany, 2002- 2004;
Associate Professor, Department of History, State University of New York at Albany, 1999- 2002. Joint Appointment with Department of Public Administration and Policy, 1999-2002;
Assistant Professor, Department of History, State University of New York at Albany, 1996- 1999.
Professor Zelizer is a well-known commentator in the national and international television, radio, and print media. He was featured on a show by the History Channel, Great Moments on the Campaign Trail, which was awarded an Emmy in 2008.
He is a regular contributor to CNN.Com and Politico. He has also published articles in Newsweek, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe and The American Prospect, among many other media appearances and commentaries in print, radio, and television.


“I’m a true historian, but I never like to be confined by boundaries. I’ve learned from social science, political science, social history. To do it right, it has to be done without any rigid disciplinary boundaries.”…

“It’s nice to teach at the same institution as a parent; it doesn’t happen very often. Given how small Princeton is, we already have many connections of similar friends.”

“Both my parents contributed to my interest in education, creating a culture where learning and knowledge is a valuable commodity. I remember my grandfather, who also was a rabbi, used to say that being a professor and a rabbi is basically the same thing in terms of learning and teaching.”…

“Political policymakers are constantly looking to questions or lessons from the past. Instead of trying to understand the last two years, let’s understand the last 200 or 300 years. You can’t understand what’s going on today if you don’t look at it historically.”… “Whether you are going to work in welfare or foreign policy, it teaches you how to think about the past in ways that actually offer help as you develop proposals in the present.”

“It was kind of an odd way to learn, but doing a live radio show every week was really helpful. I learned the medium quickly and became comfortable with going live on the air not really knowing what we were going to talk about…. Public intellectuals comment on issues of the day using what they study, and I think a professor can contribute to that even if it’s in a sound bite. It’s a different way to get my ideas out there.” –

Originally published as part of Political scholar Zelizer goes beyond disciplinary, academic boundaries, News at Princeton, 3-8-08

Viviana and Julian Zelizer JPG

“What policy history does nicely is to look back to alternatives that were not taken. We can look at the New Deal to understand current economic policy. Decisions that weren’t taken might offer guidance to where we should be looking now.”…

“If we look at the Jimmy Carter era, there was a sweeping set of energy policies that were discussed, from nuclear power to increased conservation – most of which were defeated. Looking back at that brings us to ideas that have currency today.”…

“Most historians have not focused on public policy until recently. The history profession was much more concerned with social and political issues, not policy issues. As policy schools developed, historians were not really interested in becoming part of them.”

“In the past five or six years that’s started to change. A growing number of historians have become interested in the study of policy history.”
“It’s useful to convey the historical context in the classroom when they’re trying to understand long-term patterns, developments over decades. In dealing with a particular question of leadership or finance, it’s useful to see that issues have been playing out for a long time, to see how previous policymakers got around them – or did not get around them. It’s also useful for students understand the people who have had the jobs that they want to have someday,” he said.

“Many of the problems we have today are shaped by decisions that were taken years ago. We’re inheriting problems of structure that were built into the legislation.”

“It’s kind of an open-ended question. Do they just tell stories? An interdisciplinary environment offers the chance to work together with historians, political scientists and writers. In all my classes, we read a lot of work from other disciplines. There are opportunities for exciting writing and collaboration.” — Originally published as part of WWS Increases Faculty Specializing in Policy History, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs


By Julian E. Zelizer

  • It is impossible to tell how history will judge President Bush, given that interpretations of his tenure in office will change many times and be open to ongoing debate. Some historians who have weighed in point to decisions such as the surge of U.S. troops in Iraq, which stabilized conditions, as evidence of successful presidential leadership. Donald Critchlow has argued that “Bush’s remaking of the Republican party was a major achievement. By strengthening party organization at the national and state levels, Bush . . . enabled the GOP to harness grassroots activism to win control of Congress and the White House.” Yet a majority of professional historians (who do tend to come from the liberal side of the political spectrum) have been less sanguine. For a cover story in Rolling Stone, “The Worst President in History?,” Sean Wilentz began by saying, “Bush’s presidency appears headed for colossal historical disgrace.”The historians whose essays appear in this book do not attempt to resolve this debate. The chapters catalogue some of the successes of the administration, ranging from counterterrorism efforts against al Qaeda between 2001 and The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment   JPG 2003 through AIDS policy in Africa to the appointment of minorities to prominent government positions. They also examine some of the failures, including the damage caused by the war in Iraq, the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina, and the devastating collapse of financial markets following years of deregulation in the fall of 2008. Rather than speculate whether he was the worst or the best president in U.S. history, the contributors have attempted to place the Bush White House in a broader historical perspective by understanding his presidency in relationship to the conservative movement.The authors of the essays in this book are trying to write a first take on the history of this period, but one that builds on the rich literature on the history of conservatism in modern America. We hope the essays provoke further investigation. Since this is an early effort to write the history of the George W. Bush presidency, the work is necessarily incomplete. We do not yet have access to some archival materials that will become available in the future. Yet, in addition to the substantial documentation instantaneously available in the age of the Internet, the contributors also have the advantage of producing this interpretation at a time when the emotions and sentiment and context of President Bush’s actions are still vivid. We hope these essays offer the opening to a conversation that will continue for centuries. — Julian E. Zelizer in “The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment”
  • Any surprises in the book?: One of the authors wrote about Bush’s Texas origins and how Bush was legitimately interested in broadening the GOP, bringing in Latinos. This was the America Bush knew in Texas, and it’s what he wanted.As a historian, what’s your opinion of Bush?: My opinion is that he will go down as a transformative president. He was saddled with the image of an accidental president, the son of a president, someone not who’s serious. But when you start looking back at his tax policies, his war policies, his counter-terror policies, he’s enormously consequential … Right now, as Obama is struggling with each item on his agenda, we’re starting to appreciate the scale of what happened under Bush, whether you agree or disagree with his polices. Obama is living and dealing with what a lot of Bush did. Afghanistan, Iraq, tax cuts … a lot of Obama’s time in the White House has been defined as a response to what Bush did … Bush was a serious political player and was not taken seriously to the mistake of many people.So what’s going to be Bush’s legacy?: He was very successful in terms of shaping public policy. He’s got a pretty big record. There were failures; Iraq really didn’t work out the way he thought, and some would argue his tax polices caused the meltdown. But every president goes through tons of revisions. Truman was seen as a failure when he left office, now he’s the architect of the Cold War. Reagan was seen as a bumbling figure, now he’s seen as a shrewd leader who helped end Communism … Bush had the ability to move Washington and to move public policy, and it’s hard to deny that he did that and did it dramatically.So. The reason for the book?: Bush still looms large. He’s so polarizing, so controversial. Been a few quiet years, but people are thinking about him again. It’s fun for people to look back on a period they lived through and to start to think about it as a moment in history. — LOOK WHO’S TALKING Interview: Julian Zelizer, professor of History and Public Affairs at Princeton University Discussing “The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment,” The Trentonian, 9-13-10
  • We hear about some of the regrets that he had about his presidency, how he handled the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, some discussion of the WMDs that were not found in Iraq, and some acknowledgment by the president that this was, you know, unfortunate and saddened him. But, in general, this is the same President Bush who we heard when he left office. He defends much of his record, and he’s pretty resolute about the decisions that he made.Of all the facts, this is one we didn’t know about, that there was some discussion and consideration of replacing Vice President Cheney with Senator Bill Frist to be the vice presidential candidate. Part of the reason he wanted to do it was to demonstrate to the public that he was, in fact, in charge of the White House and that Vice President Cheney didn’t run the show behind the scenes. So, this is a revelation. Again, it’s not uncommon for people to talk about changes in the tickets behind the scenes, but it still is some news.I think, the more we learn from journalists and from historians about what went on in the White House, and from what we’re learning about people who left the administration, most don’t agree with that assessment. Whether you disagree or agree with his policies, this is someone who is intelligent and who was capable and who could be politically skillful at various times. I imagine there will be a bit of a revision, like you had with Ronald Reagan, who originally was thought to be not very intelligent, more an actor than a policy-maker. But the more we learned, we learned there was someone pretty cunning in the White House.I do think, like many presidents, he wants to get a first cut of the history. He knows that historians are coming. He knows that the historians are going to start investigating what went on. I think this is his effort to offer a defense and an explanation of what he did during his administration. And even on controversial issues like Iraq, where he acknowledges his regrets, he still stands by the decision. So, this is his kind of last argument before the historians start the debate.I would disagree only in that there really never is a final verdict. First of all, the historians have already started to write about him. And what will happen is, there will be multiple interpretations. There will be cycles of when people are negative or — about his policies, when they see more accomplishments than we noticed at the time. You know, a president like Ronald Reagan has gone through many ups and downs in terms of how we view his character, his skills, and the record and legacy of his policies. So — so, it’s an unending debate that is about to start. And I don’t think there will be any point in time where anyone issues a verdict. And I think that’s a healthy way to treat a presidency. — JULIAN ZELIZER, Editor, “The Presidency of GEORGE W. BUSH: A First Historical Assessment”, in “Bush Releases Memoir: ‘He Knows the Historians Are Coming’” Interview with PBS Newshour, 11-9-10Mp3
  • Interview: President Bush Offers Some Apologies, Some Regret: Julian Zelizer, Presidential Historian and Editor of, “The Presidency of George W. Bush”… – Mp3
  • Julian Zelizer: Former President George W Bush defends policies in memoirs: “Extremely difficult. There are few of these memoirs that has a big role in changing how people hink of who a president is.” — BBC, 10-9-10
  • September 11. Katrina. Iraq. These events will be forever linked with the presidency of George W. Bush. Now, with the release of his memoir, “Decision Points,” the former president has the chance to defend his record and explain his actions. But as historians and the public alike look back on the Bush White House, will we be able to move past the persistent myths that endure about those tumultuous eight years?…
    1. George W. Bush was an uninformed Texas cowboy….
    2. Compassionate conservatism was just a campaign slogan….
    3. Bush committed America to nation-building projects in Iraq and Afghanistan….
    4. Dick Cheney ran the Bush White House….
    5. Bush left conservatism in ruins.
    Julian Zelizer, “5 myths about George W. Bush,” WaPo, 11-3-10
  • I am very much looking forward to this chat about President George W. Bush and his legacy. In several of my recent publications, including an article in the Washington Post yesterday and a new book that I edited, The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment, I have tried to move beyond some of the existing debate. Rather than answer whether Bush is the “best or worst” president or to repeat discussions about why people hated or loved him, the time has come to start understanding what actually happened when he was in office, to place these events and personalities in broader context, and to start understanding his presidency in relationship to President Obama’s.
    Besides some of the more familiar issues that shaped his presidency, such as 9/11 and the war on terrorism, looking back from 2010 raises new kinds of questions that might not have been as obvious at the time that his term ended: What impact did Bush have on the conservative movement? What was the relationship between deregulation during these years and the economic collapse in 2008? How did the economic policies of the period influence economic inequality? What was the relationship between President Bush and congressional Republicans? How did Bush overcome some of the obstacles that Obama has struggled in the political process? Did the Bush Doctrine really constitute as much as a turning point in U.S. foreign policy as it seemed at the time? How do we evaluate the impact of the Surge–and what did the decision-making behind that policy tell us about how the White House worked? How did President Bush come to push for a substantial expansion of government–through TARP–in the middle of the economic crisis? What impact did the 2006 elections have on the politics of his presidency? Which policies will outlast his presidency and why?
    Obviously these are just a few questions and there are many more to discuss. But the time has come to start thinking more seriously about this two-term president and the impact that he had on the nation. It is also to start developing a more sophisticated understanding of the roots of this administration rather than writing about these years as if everything started in 2001…. – Julian Zelizer: Five myths about George W. Bush Live-Chat, WaPo, 11-8-10
  • About Julian E. Zelizer

  • “Julian is a gifted communicator who can translate his scholarship into terms accessible to journalists and the general public. He injects needed historical perspective into contemporary political debate.” — Bruce Schulman, a professor of history at Boston University
  • “An all-star cast of historians examines the perplexing presidency of George W. Bush–the ‘compassionate conservative’ who frequently ended up allied with the hard right, the ‘uniter’ who presided over one of the nation’s most divisive political eras, the advocate of ‘humility’ on the world stage who fiercely championed unilateral presidential powers. After the journalists and pundits have had their say, the historians are here to put Bush’s tumultuous tenure in historical perspective. An essential resource for anyone seeking to understand contemporary American politics.” — Jacob S. Hacker, coauthor of Winner-Take-All Politics and Off Center
  • “With clarity and precision, some of America’s most prominent historians of politics, law, and international relations examine the controversial presidency of George W. Bush. Their assessments of Bush’s administration are sober, rigorous, and eye-opening. Together these essays will provide a foundation for the next generation of scholarship on early twenty-first-century America.” — Thomas J. Sugrue, author of Not Even Past: Barack Obama and the Burden of Race
  • “George W. Bush once stated that ‘we’ll all be dead’ by the time history casts its judgment on his presidency. Instead, in this engaging and timely portrait of the Bush era, eleven leading scholars assess the ‘war on terror,’ the resurrection of the imperial presidency, the effects of tax cuts and corporate deregulation, and other foreign and domestic policies promoted by big-government conservatism. While acknowledging the administration’s political accomplishments, the contributors to this volume emphasize the ultimate failures of the Bush presidency and the conservative movement’s strategies of governance.” — Matthew D. Lassiter, University of Michigan
  • “Analytically shrewd and historically rich, this harvest of a book convenes a group of leading historians to assess the country’s recent past. Ranging from tax cuts to terrorism, and encompassing questions of ideology, multiculturalism, and presidential capacity, the contributions to this volume establish the scope and agenda for future studies of George W. Bush’s tumultuous presidency.” — Ira Katznelson, Columbia University
  • “This impressive collection features brilliant essays by some of America’s best historians on the presidency of George W. Bush. It’s all here–from the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court decision that sealed Bush’s first-term victory to the stunning financial crisis that closed his tenure in office. This stimulating and highly accessible volume is must reading for scholars, journalists, and concerned citizens.” — Eric M. Patashnik, author of Reforms at Risk
  • “This is a superb collection of essays. I am impressed with the range of issues they cover and the lucidity with which each essay illuminates a particular topic. Their interleaved and overlapping evidence reminds a general reader of the layers of meaning embedded in every political decision taken by the Bush administration–and the sometimes unfortunate consequences. This is an important and timely book.” — Alice Kessler-Harris, author of In Pursuit of Equity
  • Zelizer (history & public affairs, Princeton Univ.; Jimmy Carter) has gathered an A-list of American historians who present a detailed analysis of the presidency of George W. Bush. Each essay examines a particular facet of Bush’s two terms, including such topics as terrorism, faith-based initiatives, energy policy, education, and the war in Iraq. Most of the 12 contributions are scholarly assessments without the partisan political rhetoric found on newspaper op-ed pages or cable TV news shows. Some of the essays, particularly those on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, go over territory that will be familiar to most readers. The more interesting chapters, one by Zelizer, delve into Bush’s place in the American conservative movement. Another thought-provoking treatise is David Greenberg’s (history, journalism, & media studies, Rutgers Univ.) study of the Bush administration’s denigration of professional expertise on subjects such as global warming, judicial nominations, and evolution. VERDICT It may be too soon for many readers to consider a historical analysis of the George W. Bush presidency. But Zelizer’s work provides a valuable benchmark for historians to build upon. — Robert Bruce Slater, Stroudsburg, PA, Library Journal, Oct. 15, 2010
  • Shrub Studies: Next week, Crown Publishers will issue President George W. Bush’s memoir Decision Points, covering what the former president calls “eight of the most consequential years in American history,” which seems like a fair description. They were plenty consequential. To judge from the promotional video, Bush will plumb the depths of his insight that it is the role of a president to be “the decider.” Again, it’s hard to argue with his point — though you have to wonder if he shouldn’t let his accumulated wisdom ripen and mellow for a while before serving it.
    Princeton University Press has already beat him into print with The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment, edited by Julian E. Zelizer, who is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton. The other 10 contributors are professors of history, international relations, law, and political science, and they cover the expected bases — the “War on Terror,” the invasion of Iraq, social and economic policy, religion and race. It is a scholarly book, which means that it is bound to make everybody mad. People on the left get angry at remembering the Bush years, while those on the right grow indignant that anyone still wants to talk about them. So the notion that they were consequential is perhaps not totally uncontroversial after all.
    The contributors make three points about the Bush administration’s place in the history of American conservatism that it may be timely to sum up, just now…. – Inside Higher Ed, 11-3-10
  • Julian E. Zelizer, an academic from Princeton and political commentator for CNN and The New York Times, has endeavoured to telescope the assessment of George W. Bush’s presidency. Indeed, Zelizer and his distinguished fellow contributors, all senior academics from prestigious institutions ranging from Georgetown’s Michael Kazin to Brown’s James T. Patterson, make a virtue of their early conclusions about the 43rd president by highlighting that this is a first historical assessment. By and large they have written a critical but penetrating analysis of the years 2001 to 2009.
    A strength of this book is that it seeks to place the Bush presidency in the context of earlier Republican administrations. There is a peculiar conservative American perspective on the exercise of presidential power and the limits that should apply to the government….
    The Bush presidency is entitled to the passage of time and the scholarship of a generation….
    Truman now rests easy; his reputation polished. For Bush, despite Zelizer’s early conclusions, authoritative judgment is still some distance away. — The Australian, “A legacy in progress,” 10-9-10


    Julian Zelizer: Top Young Historian Profile, 12-4-05

    Julian Zelizer, Website, Princeton University

    The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment Edited by Julian E. Zelizer, Princeton University Press, 2010

    Examining the Bush Legacy: George W. Bush’s “Decision Points” & Julian Zelizer’s “The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment” By Bonnie K. Goodman, HNN, 11-8-10

    Posted on Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 7:59 PM

    Matthew A. Wasniewski: Appointed the New Historian of the U.S. House of Representatives

    By Bonnie K. Goodman

    Ms. Goodman is the Editor/Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Her blog is History Musings

    Basic Facts

    Position: Appointed the 4th House Historian.
    Area of Research: 19th & 20th Century United States History, Diplomatic History.
    Education: Ph.D., University of Maryland, College Park, 2004.
    Major Publications: Wasniewski is the author of “Walter Lippmann, strategic internationalism, the Cold War, and Vietnam, 1943–1967.” Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Maryland, College Park, 2004, 664 pages.
    Matthew  Wasniewski JPG Wasniewski is the editor of Women in Congress, 1917–2006. 2d ed. Joint Committee on Printing. 2007; and Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007. 3d ed. U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on House Administration, U.S. Government Printing Office, 2008.
    Additional Info:
    Formerly Historian and Deputy Chief, Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives where he was responsible for the print and online editions of the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, the House’s website on Art and History, the print and online editions of Women in Congress, Black Americans in Congress. He is also responsible for brochures about historical, archival and art-related information, as well as other publications mandated by the House.
    Wasniewski began his public history career at the Capitol Historical Society.


    It was probably a combination of things. Like a lot of people who go into history, I’m pretty math-challenged, but I love to read, so I read a lot of history books as a kid—a lot of books on World Wars I and II, and the Civil War. We kind of bounced around a couple locations in northern Virginia, but we were never really far from Civil War battlefields and historic sites. My dad, in his spare time, had a metal detector, so we would go metal detecting on a private farm field and find these Civil War bullets, and that really got my interest going.

    I actually went to college thinking that I wanted to write for a newspaper and worked for the college newspaper my entire four years. I went to James Madison University and realized that I could do a double major fairly easily. My roommates were history majors, so by sophomore year they had talked me in coming to take a few history courses. I went, realized I could do a double major, and signed up for it. I think probably the one [undergraduate] course that really got me hooked was a methods course taught by Skip Hyser. I think that was kind of the turning point where I got hooked.

    It was in U.S. history. I wrote a master’s thesis on Walter Lippmann, who was a journalist. He was a critic of U.S. Cold War policy, and so I focused on kind of a narrow range from 1945-52 and his criticisms on American policy. I followed that up with a [PhD] dissertation, [which] looked at Lippmann from 1945-67 when he retired as a critic of particularly American policy and southeast Asia. The archives [National Archives II] at the University of Maryland are pretty much right on campus, and so you could go over to the archives after class and dig around for these documents. We’re spoiled here in the D.C. area because we have so many resources—the Library of Congress right next door, the National Archives.

    A lot of graduate schools (a lot of the history departments I should say) don’t always do a good job advertising their ability to place people in public history jobs, and I didn’t know it going into Maryland. I kind of thought, Well, I’d go in, get my PhD, and teach somewhere. It was only kind of gradually through association—going to these different archives, getting involved in organizations, and meeting people who had graduated from the program at Maryland who had public history jobs—that I realized there was this whole network out there of people who had these great jobs where they’re doing all histories, they’re writing, they’re doing research, they’re answering reference questions. I only learned about that gradually at Maryland, kind of through my own poking around. I found that there was a real network of folks in federal history offices from the National Archives to the State Department to here on the Hill.

    Well, my background in graduate school was definitely 20th century. Although in making the transition to study Congress more than a decade ago, I really came to appreciate the 19th century. In particular, I hadn’t been so acquainted with political science before studying Congress, so that’s definitely a field I’ve been reading a lot more. I’ve come to appreciate the political scientist; they’re a different kind of cat than historians. We like to tell stories, and that’s how we educate people. We’re anecdote people, storytellers and writers. They’re kind of quantifiers [and] definitely love their numbers. I find a lot of what political scientists do provides a great roadmap for what historians need to do when they think about an institution this large.

    I’m part of a book group and read kind of broadly about U.S. history and some international history. At some point I’d like to turn my dissertation into a book, so I have an interest in diplomatic history as well.

    My official title is a mouthful: I’m the historian for the Office of History and Preservation under the Clerk of the House from the U.S. House of Representatives, and I’m also the deputy chief for the Office.

    Our office is unique in federal history in that we kind of combine functions that typically aren’t all put together under one roof. I’m in charge of the publications and historical reference side of our operation. In the last three years, we’ve published a big volume along with the Senate Historical Office. In 2006, we published the update to the biographical directory of the United States Congress, which is a print edition of a biographical reference database that’s online; it’s been online for 10 years. This is the 16th print edition. It goes all the way back to the 1860s. [This biographical directory] compiles information on all the members who have served in the House and the Senate since 1789. It also includes the Continental Congresses, so it’s more than 12,000 people total. We handle the House side of the biographical entries, and the Senate handles members of the Senate.

    In 2007 we published a congressionally mandated book, Women in Congress, which was an update to a series that began in the 1970s. This was the third edition [that] we greatly expanded. Of course there were a lot of women to write about because the last edition of the book came out in 1990-91. If you broke the number of women in Congress in half, which is above 250 at this point, that is the halfway point. More women have served post 1990 than had served in all history up through that point. Just a couple of months ago, we published the third edition of Black Americans in Congress, a book that also goes back to the 1970s. These two volumes are now part of a series of four books on women and minorities in Congress. We’re just now beginning to turn our attention to the last two books in the series: a book on Hispanic Americans and a book on Asian Pacific Americans in Congress. All of them cover not just the House but also the Senate side, so we work pretty closely with the Senate Historical Office.
    We answer a lot of reference questions, deal quite a bit with member offices, and get a number of reference questions from the general public. In fact, the general public is probably our number one inquirer. We also deal a lot with press questions.

    In 2004, we started up the House’s first oral history program where we interview long-time staff members—people who worked on committees, people who work on the floor. Our first interview was a reading clerk in the House who actually read the roll call for the Declaration of War on December 8, 1941. So he had all these memories of people on the floor, he had memories of Jeannette Pickering Rankin, who cast the lone no vote against war. It’s been interesting. We’ve now got roughly about 100 hours of recorded memories [from] a couple dozen folks. We’re really looking forward to expanding that program.

    Oral history is a very powerful tool for kind of putting a human face on an institution. I think part of the public’s misperception of Congress is [that] people don’t understand it; it’s an intimidating thing to study. The presidency is kind of at a human scale—we’ve had 44 presidencies. The House and Senate combined are in excess of 12,000 people— it’s a huge institution. One of the challenges when I got interested in studying Congressional history was to take that to an individual level, to be able to understand the institution, to humanize it. That’s a little bit of what we do, that’s what oral history is. [We] try to put a human face on what goes on here—scaleable history so that an individual can kind of connect with it.

    I actually used to work at the Capitol Historical Society. I was in graduate school at the University of Maryland, working on a degree in 20th century U.S. history, minding political and diplomatic history. I finished with my coursework and decided that I needed to have some financing to support me working on my dissertation. I wanted to move outside the department to get some practical experience. There was a job posting for a part-time position at the historical society for an associate historian who would do research, and so I applied and got the job. [I] did some historical work [and] also handled their publications. I have a background in journalism, and so I was responsible for the newsletter and catalogues and talking to the press.

    When this office was created in 2002, I saw the job advertisement and put my application in. [I] was very fortunate that it worked out.

    Originally published as part of “Jobs and Careers in History: Matt Wasniewski Interview – Part 1 & Part 2, By Jessica Pritchard, AHA’s History Today, 2-23-09


    By Matthew Wasniewski

  • Despite these flaws and frequent reversals, there were powerful and persuasive consistencies that animated Lippmann’s writings on foreign policy and the Cold War. Lippmann constructed a conceptual framework early in his career that eventually served as the centerpiece of his postwar analyses. The historian’s curiosity which I soon cultivated for Lippmann was no less intense than my attraction to him as a journalist. As I pursued graduate degrees in 20th century political history and international affairs during the 1990s, the context of what was occurring around me imparted an entirely new dimension to Lippmann’s columns. Sadly, straining to decipher 50-year-old Today and Tomorrow installments (on a microfilm reader of only slightly more recent vintage) proved a world more enlightening than the op-ed pages of most modern daily papers. The decade after the Cold War, with all its promise, contradictions, and disappointments badly needed a Lippmann-esque figure-but one never materialized.The 1990s in America, to borrow one of Lippmann’s phrases, were years of drift rather than mastery. Soviet power receded revealing long-neglected domestic institutions and concerns. The Cold War, Americans realized, had been waged at significant social cost: crime-ridden and decaying inner cities, obsolete public transportation systems, declining schools, a compromised environment, and massive national debts. Americans gladly forfeited their global concerns for the pursuit of prosperity at home. Televised popular culture and the news media-often indistinguishable enterprises-served as a potent opiate for a surprisingly eager audience. The public knew more about the broken marriage of a football star accused of murdering his estranged wife, than it did about a Balkan war that killed thousands of civilians, threatened peace in Europe, and eventually required NATO’s first military offensive. Americans gawked at presidential peccadilloes, but were blasé about the very same president’s failure to act upon horrific genocide on the African sub-continent. American intellectuals fared little better, participating in their own myopic surfeit of “irrational exuberance” spawned by post-Cold War triumphalism.4 One prominent scholar-cum-policymaker even adopted Hegel’s line that history was politics and, that since democracy had vanquished its 20th century rivals, communism and fascism, that history itself was perhaps nearing an “end.” Even those whose approach was more tempered, surveyed the “American Century” and argued that the Wilsonian mission of creating stability by fostering democracy had been internalized implicitly-if not explicitly-by U.S. policymakers, and, moreover, was a successful program worth emulating in the 21st Century. — Matthew Wasniewski in “Walter Lippmann, strategic internationalism, the Cold War, and Vietnam, 1943–1967.”
  • “The answer I’ve got is about as convoluted as the 50 state election laws themselves. I had to call over to the Senate Historical Office for an answer as to governors’ appointment powers. Here’s the gist of my conversation with them and what I know from my research for the Women in Congress book:First, the general trend is as your reader suggests: governors have the power to appoint only until the next general election. But that general rule is subject to the vagaries of a lot of complicated state election laws. There is no federal law that uniformly determines that a governor may make an appointment only up until the next general election. Women in Congress 1917-2006 JPG Moreover, in some instances, the actual swearing-in of a senator-elect to the remainder of a term can be delayed for personal scheduling reasons (for instance, the senator-elect may be occupying another elective or appointed office), thus extending the term of the appointee for a short amount of time.There are other examples of earlier and later women appointed to the Senate who, in fact, unlike Eva Bowring, served beyond the general election following their appointments (if only for a few weeks or months). One example is Elaine Edwards of Louisiana:

    Edwards (one of two women appointed by her husband to the Senate; Dixie Bibb Graves of Alabama was another) succeeded Allen Ellender after his death in 1972. She served from Aug. 1 to Nov. 13, when she resigned (a week after the general election) to give John Bennett Johnston, who had been elected on Nov. 7 to the full term commencing in January 1973, a seniority advantage.

    It may be that the election statute governing this example was peculiar only to Louisiana and, moreover, that it may have changed since Edwards served. I’m no expert on state election law. But there are several historical examples that would seem to provide the exceptions for which your reader was inquiring.” — Matthew Wasniewski about “Women in Congress: 1917-2006.” in “Ready, Ames, Fire: The Iowa Straw Poll”, NPR, 8-7-07

    About Matthew Wasniewski

  • “Dr. Wasniewski brings enormous experience and energy to the job of House Historian. His knowledge of congressional history, and his familiarity with cutting edge research and archival techniques make him the perfect candidate for this position. I want to thank Leader Boehner for working cooperatively throughout the appointment process, and supporting the work of the non-partisan, independent Search Committee.” — Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives (D-Calif.)
  • “I’d like to thank the Speaker for working in a collaborative way throughout this process. Dr. Wasniewski’s interest in the history of the federal government, and his long-time association with the House, make him an excellent choice who will continue to find innovative ways to not only help the public be better engaged with their House, but to help Members better perform their duties through an understanding of the history of the institution.” — House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio)
  • Women In Congress 1917-2006 is an impressive book . . . . There are many stories in this book, both individual and collective. … Even the appendices disclose intriguing tidbits . . . This is not a bedtime reading or a beach book, but it is more than a research volume. Elegantly designed and modestly priced for a book this big, it’s also a suitable graduation present for an ambitious young woman. Getting it might giver her a few ideas about what she can aspire to.” —
  • Wasniewski (House Office of History & Preservation) has compiled the first comprehensive guide to the 229 women who have served in the U.S. congressional system, from the pre-suffrage era (e.g., Jeannette Rankin of Montana) to the present day. In the segment highlighting former congressional members, striking, full-page sepia- toned photographs precede profiles averaging three to six pages. Each entry is concluded by further reading titles, references to pertinent manuscript collections, and abundant primary-source material. Part 2 offers one-page alphabetical profiles of current members, while an appendix provides condensed entries on 74 first-year 109th congressional members. Meticulously researched and extremely well organized; highly recommended for political science and women’s studies collections. — Savannah Schroll Guz, formerly with Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, DC, Library Journal
  • Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007 JPG This beautifully prepared volume provides a plethora of information about African-Americans who have served in the Congress. Part I provides four chronologically organized chapters under the heading “Former Black Members of Congress.” Each chapter provides a lengthy biographical sketch of the members who served during the period addressed, along with a narrative historical account of the era and tables of information about the Congress during that time. Part II provides similar information about current African-American members. There are 10 appendixes providing tabular information of a variety of sorts about the service of Black members, including such things as a summary list, service on committees and in party leadership posts, familial connections, and so forth. The entire volume is 803 large folio pages in length and there are many illustrations. The book should be part of every library and research collection, and congressional scholars may well wish to obtain it for their personal libraries. — Ron Peters, Regents’ Professor of Political Science, University of Oklahoma
  • Posted on Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 10:34 AM

    NEW SERIES: Top Newsmakers

    New series on HNN, “Top Newsmakers” will profile the top news making historians. These are the historians making the most headlines, and grabbing the most buzz each week. Each historian is chosen based on media attention, and importance of the news story surrounding them.

    This week…Annette Gordon-Reed: Awarded a 2010 MacArthur Fellowship

    Top Newsmakers: This Week…Annette Gordon-Reed: Awarded a 2010 MacArthur Fellowship

    Annette Gordon-Reed: Awarded a 2010 MacArthur Fellowship

    On September 28, 2010, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation named legal scholar, historian, and Harvard Professor Annette Gordon-Reed as one of the recipients of the 2010 MacArthur Fellowship, known as the MacArthur “Genius” Award/Grant. This past year Gordon-Reed also received the National Humanities Medal. She won the Pulitzer Prize and Frederick Douglass Book Prize in 2009, and the National Book Award in 2008 for “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family.”

    Basic Facts

    Position: Professor of law at Harvard Law School, Professor of history in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Havard University, July 2010–
    Area of Research: American Legal History, American Slavery and the Law
    Education: J.D., Harvard University, 1984;
    A.B., Dartmouth College in history, 1981;
    honorary Doctor of Letters, Ramapo College;
    honorary degree, the College of William and Mary, May 2010.
    Major Publications: Gordon Reed is the author of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, W.W. Norton & Co. (New York, NY), 2008.
    Annette Gordon-Reed JPG (With others) Jubilee: The Emergence of African-American Culture, National Geographic Publishing (Washington, DC), 2003; (Editor) Race on Trial: Law and Justice in American History, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2002; (With Vernon E. Jordan) Vernon Can Read! A Memoir, Public Affairs (New York, NY), 2001, 2nd edition, Thorndike Press (Waterville, ME), 2002; and Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy, University Press of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA), 1997.
    Contributor to books, including Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson: History, Memory, and Civic Culture, University Press of Virginia, 1999; Thomas Jefferson: Genius of Liberty, Viking Press, 2000; Jefferson’s Children: The Story of One American Family, Random House, 2001; and Slavery and Its Aspects, University Press of Mississippi, 2003.
    Gordon-Reed also contributes to periodicals, including New York School Law Review, William and Mary Quarterly, New York Times, Washington Post, and Washington Times.
    Awards: Gordon-Reed is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
    National Humanities Medal, 2009;
    Guggenheim Fellowship in the Humanities (2009);
    Pulitzer Prize in history for “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family,” 2009;
    National Book Award, for nonfiction, for “The Hemingses of Monticello,” 2008;
    Fellowship at the Cullman Center at the New York Public Library (2010-2011);
    NYLS Otto Walter Prize for best faculty publication of 1999 and 2008;
    Old Dominion Fellowship at Princeton University (2002);
    Columbia University’s Barbara A. Black lectureship (2001);
    the Trailblazer Award from the Metropolitan Black Bar Association (2001);
    Best nonfiction book, Black Caucus of the American Library Association, 2001;
    Bridging the Gap Award, 2000; Woman of Power and Influence award, National Organization for Women, 1999;
    Anisfeld-Wolf book award for Vernon Can Read, 2002;
    Association of Black Women Attorneys Achievement Award, 1988;
    American History Roundtable Achievement award, 1988.
    Additional Info:
    Previously held position at Cahill Gordon & Reindel (law firm), New York, NY, associate; New York City Board of Correction, New York, NY, counsel; New York Law School, New York, NY, professor, 1992-2010; and Rutgers-Newark, New Jersey, Rutgers Board of Governors Professor of History, Springs 2007 until June 2010.


    By Annette Gordon-Reed

    Annette Gordon-Reed, 2010 MacArthur Fellow

    Annette Gordon-Reed’s 2008 National Book Awards Acceptance Speech

    <p><p><a href=”″>Annette Gordon-Reed’s 2008 National Book Awards Acceptance Speech</a> from <a href=”″>National Book Foundation</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p></p>

    Lee  C. Bollinger, President of Columbia University, presents the 2009  History prize to Annette Gordon-Reed JPG

    Lee C. Bollinger, President of Columbia University, presents the 2009 History prize to Annette Gordon-Reed.

  • “I’m enormously grateful and humbled to be given this award. 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.” — Professor Annette Gordon-Reed wins a MacArthur Fellowship
  • “I am enormously pleased to become a part of the Harvard community once again. I look forward to working with the students and faculty members at the Law School and in the History Department, and to experiencing the rich interdisciplinary environment at the Radcliffe Institute.” — Annette Gordon-Reed to join the Harvard faculty
  • I first thought about writing this book when I was working on my first book, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy back in the 1990s. That book was about the historiography on the Jefferson and Hemings relationship. One of the things that bothered me was that the Hemingses, enslaved people, were treated in history books as if they had no individual identities and lives that were worth being careful about. You could give Sally Hemings a father for her children on one person’s word alone—no contemporary circumstances to back up that person’s assertion. There’s no way to say you care about, or respect the personal dignity of a person and be that reckless with her life. It occurred to me that it was easy to dismiss enslaved people in this way because so few of the details of their lives had been written about. It’s easier to be careless about people when you don’t have any sense of connection to them. It’s hard to have a connection, or develop a “stake” in them, when you don’t know them personally. I had the idea, perhaps naïve, that I might be able to rectify this to some extent by introducing them to the American public as individuals. The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family JPG
  • Jefferson was an inveterate record-keeper. So, there is actually a good amount of information about certain members of the family. I thought, “Well, why not draw on that, along with information from other sources?” I could do something that is rarely done: present a portrait of slavery through the eyes of enslaved people. The more I looked at the record, the more convinced I became that this approach might be useful to scholars and informative to the public in general….I really wanted to get a sense of, and convey to readers, the way slavery worked in the day-to-day lives of people. We know what the big picture of slavery meant to the enslaved. But I wanted people to understand that this was not just the oppression of a nameless mass of people. It blighted the lives of millions of individuals in ways that we can feel, if we allow ourselves to do that. I want readers to identify with, say, Robert Hemings, who had a wife away from Monticello and wanted to be with her and their children. The tension between him and Jefferson as he negotiated his freedom so that he could join his family, I think, puts a really human face on the toll slavery took on family life. We know the poignant drama of enforced separations. But here we see a more quiet desperation: we have a husband and father using what means were at his disposal to be able to live with his family. Or Mary Hemings who asked to be sold away from Monticello to live on Main Street in Charlottesville with Thomas Bell, a prosperous white merchant who left her and their children his house and property. And then you compare them to the other enslaved people down the mountain—the majority of people at Monticello—who had few real chances to affect their lives in meaningful ways. We see the differences in individual circumstances while understanding that there was no “good” or “easy” way to be enslaved…. — Excerpted from: Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family Interview conducted by Meehan Crist, National Book Foundation, 2008About Annette Gordon-Reed
  • Annette Gordon-Reed is a legal scholar and historian whose persistent investigation into the life of an iconic American president has dramatically changed the course of Jeffersonian scholarship. Fascinated from childhood by the Jefferson family, Gordon-Reed began a comprehensive re-examination of the evidence about the rumored committed relationship between Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings. Independent of her responsibilities as a law professor, she wrote her first book, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (1997). While the liaison had been widely alleged contemporaneously and since, it was also largely dismissed, then and later, by archivists and historians. Although she is not a formally trained historian, Gordon-Reed drew on her legal training to apply context and reasonable interpretation to the sparse documentation about the shared lives of her protagonists at Monticello, in London, and in Paris. After publication, An American Controversy was received skeptically by some, but her conclusions were confirmed in 1998 when DNA evidence supported the documentary evidence of Jefferson’s genetic paternity. Gordon-Reed has continued her inquiry into colonial interracial relations in The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (2008), which follows the Hemings family through the nineteenth century and along markedly different paths of racial assimilation and integration. In disentangling the complicated history of two distinct founding families’ interracial bloodlines, Gordon-Reed is shaping and enriching American history with an authentic portrayal of our colonial past. — The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  • For a distinguished and appropriately documented book on the history of the United States, Awarded to “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family,” by Annette Gordon-Reed (W.W. Norton & Company), a painstaking exploration of a sprawling multi-generation slave family that casts provocative new light on the relationship between Sally Hemings and her master, Thomas Jefferson. — Citation The 2009 Pulitzer Prize Winner History
  • Gordon-Reed is the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for history. Her book, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, explores three generations of a slave family in 19th-century America, with specific attention to the relationship between President Thomas Jefferson and his slave (and suspected mistress) Sally Hemings, who was probably the mother of several of his children. — Press Release Pulitzer Prize for Drama Honors Play About Women in Wartime Congo Biography, fiction, history, music, nonfiction, poetry winners also named, 4-23-2009
  • In the mesmerizing narrative of Annette Gordon-Reed’s American family saga, one feels the steady accretion of convincing argument: Her book is at once a painstaking history of slavery, an unflinching gaze at the ways it has defined us, and a humane exploration of lives—grand and humble—that “our peculiar institution” conjoined. This is more than the story of Thomas Jefferson and his house slave Sally Hemings; it is a deeply moral and keenly intelligent probe of the harsh yet all-too-human world they inhabited and the bloodline they share. — Citation 2008 National Book Award Winner, Nonfiction for “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family”
  • New York Law School Professor Wins $25,000 Frederick Douglass Book Prize: Annette Gordon-Reed, Professor of Law at New York Law School, Professor of History at Rutgers University-Newark, and Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard University, has been selected as the winner of the 2009 Frederick Douglass Book Prize, awarded for the best book written in English on slavery or abolition. Gordon-Reed won for her book, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (W.W. Norton and Company). The prize is awarded by Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
    This year’s finalists were selected from a field of over fifty entries by a jury of scholars that included Robert Bonner (Dartmouth College), Rita Roberts (Scripps College), and Pier Larson (Johns Hopkins University). The winner was selected by a review committee of representatives from the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and Yale University.
    “In Annette Gordon Reed’s The Hemingses of Monticello, an enslaved Virginia family is delivered — but not disassociated — from Thomas Jefferson’s well-known sexual liaison with Sally Hemings,” says Bonner, the 2009 Douglass Prize Jury Chair and Associate Professor of History at Dartmouth College. “The book judiciously blends the best of recent slavery scholarship with shrewd commentary on the legal structure of Chesapeake society before and after the American Revolution. Its meticulous account of the mid-eighteenth century intertwining of the black Hemingses and white Wayles families sheds new light on Jefferson’s subsequent conjoining with a young female slave who was already his kin by marriage. By exploring those dynamic commitments and evasions that shaped Monticello routines, the path- breaking book provides a testament to the complexity of human relationships within slave societies and to the haphazard possibilities for both intimacy and betrayal.” — Press Release, The 2009 Douglass Prize
  • Annette Gordon-Reed. (Applause.) The 2009 National Humanities Medal to Annette Gordon-Reed, for important and innovative research about an American family, the Hemings of Monticello. Her narrative story about Sally Hemings and her relatives, Thomas Jefferson’s slaves, brings to light a previously unrecognized chapter in the American story. (Applause.) — Remarks by the President at Presentation of the National Humanities Medal and the National Medal of the Arts, February 25, 2010
  • Annette Gordon-Reed ’84 to join the Harvard faculty
    Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow: “I celebrate the fact that Annette Gordon-Reed has accepted our invitation to join the Harvard Law School faculty. Her extraordinary scholarship combines intensive archival research, brilliant lawyerly analysis, and tremendous historical imagination as well as a gift for writing riveting prose. Long proud of our own graduate, we here at the law school are delighted she will join our faculty and also participate in the life of the University through affiliations with Radcliffe and the history department. Colleagues, students, and aspiring scholars rejoice over the chance to work with her as she deepens historical understanding of law, slavery, and the human experience.”
    Barbara J. Grosz, dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study: “I’m thrilled that Annette Gordon-Reed will join us as the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute. I very much look forward to her participation in the Institute’s Fellowship Program and the activities of our Academic Engagement Programs.”
    Michael D. Smith, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences: “I’m very pleased that a scholar of Annette Gordon-Reed’s ability and depth will be joining the History Department. And I am excited that Harvard College students will have the opportunity to learn directly from an award-winning historian and renowned legal scholar.” — Harvard Law School
  • “As a gifted historian, [Gordon-Reed] uses her highly informed imagination to help us understand the possible and probable motives not only in this relationship but also in the immensely fascinating associations between Jefferson and the other Hemings…. Gordon-Reed has given us an important story that is ultimately about the timeless quest for justice and human dignity.” — Sanford D. Horwitt, San Francisco Chronicle
  • Gordon-Reed’s “deconstruction of this occluded relationship is a masterpiece of detective work. Although she employs a considerable amount of deductive reasoning, she resists facile speculation and relies on a very close reading of the surviving documentary record wedded to copious knowledge of slavery as it was practiced by members of Jefferson’s social class at the time… Gordon-Reed “bravely attempts to untangle a particularly fraught question: Could genuine love exist between master and slave? With its acknowledgment that slavery’s unequal balance of power ‘grossly distorted’ the play of human emotions, her conclusion is necessarily subtle and may not satisfy those who require monochromatic answers.” — Fergus M. Bordewich, Washington Post Book World
  • Posted on Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 6:56 PM

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