Books Race Matters

Annette Gordon-Reed’s New Book on Thomas Jefferson’s Concubine Sally Hemings

In 1997 Annette Gordon-Reed created waves with her book Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy which questioned previous accounts of Jefferson’s affair with his slave Hemings.

It wasn’t that Gordon-Reed went about scandalizing the former President by ousting the fact that he had children with the woman he owned–but by presenting a portrait of his concubine.

In her latest effort, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, the author further explores Sally Hemings, the person. Gordon-Reed follows four generations of Hemingses from their roots in Virginia in the 1700s to Jefferson’s death in 1826.

“I wanted to tell the story of this family in a way not done before” so that readers can “see slave people as individuals,” Gordon-Reed told the New York Times.

What Blindie loves about Gordon-Reed is the fact that she paints a portrait of Sally Hemings that is not exploitive or tabloid-worthy, but an intimate look at her as a person–not a slave or a concubine that had a former president’s illegitimate children.

The New York Review of Books calls The Hemingses of Monticello (on sale Monday) “a brilliant book. It marks the author as one of the most astute, insightful, and forthright historians of this generation.”

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