Hemings and her extended family receive a worthy biography.
As the title suggests,
The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family brings an entire family out of the historic shadows that have been cast across Jefferson’s famous Virginia home. The book succeeds on this score by showing how generations of Hemingses labored at Monticello. It offers a stunning illustration of the tragedy that slavery could wreak.
Gordon-Reed has pulled off an astonishing feat of historical re-creation, involving equal measures of painstaking archival detective work, creative historical imagination, and balanced judgment.
François Furstenberg - Slate
An epic saga of the Hemings family, whose bloodline has been mixed with that of Thomas Jefferson since our third president took slave Sally Hemings as a mistress.
Because of Gordon-Reed, Hemings and her ancestors and descendants achieve full personhood. For that, the author deserves praise and lots of readers.
The Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon-Reed, a historian and law professor, is a doorstop corrective to early American history, painting a composite portrait of a family that stood at the wellspring of the Jefferson, slave Sally Hemings, their children and kin fascinate and surprise.
The Hemingses of Monticello makes a powerful argument for the historical significance of the Hemings family not only for its engagement with a principal architect of the early Republic, but also for the ways the family embodies the complexities and contradictions of slavery in the United States.
James Smethurst - The Boston Globe
A riveting and compassionate family portrait that deserves to endure as a model of historical inquiry…stands dramatically apart for its searching intelligence and breadth of humane vision…We owe Annette Gordon-Reed tremendous thanks.
Kirk Davis Swinehart - Chicago Tribune
[A] very important and powerfully argued history of the Hemings family…[Gordon-Reed] has the imagination and talent of an expert historian.
Gordon S. Wood - The New Republic
A brilliant book…It marks the author as one of the most astute, insightful, and forthright historians of this generation.
Edmund S. Morgan and Marie Morgan - New York Review of Books
A monumental and original book.
Fergus Bordewich - Washington Post
A sweeping, prodigiously researched biography.
Motoko Rich - New York Times
[A] deeply researched, often gripping story.... 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
[A] very important and powerfully argued history of the Hemings family.... [Gordon-Reed] has the imagination and talent of an expert historian.
Gordon Wood - The New Republic
This work catapults Gordon-Reed into the very first rank of historians of slavery.
Thomas Jefferson often described his slaves at Monticello as 'my family.' Annette Gordon-Reed has taken that description seriously. Surely more seriously than Jefferson ever intended! The result... is the most comprehensive account of one slave family ever written. It is not a pretty story, but it is poignant beyond belief. And it demonstrates conclusively that we must put aside Gone With the Wind forever and begin to study William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!”
Hunting down every tiny thread of evidence about the family, Gordon-Reed has created a powerful alternative vision of the past... [and] created a monument to lives lived under the shadow of a vicious institution. For the first time, Jefferson is one part of the Hemingses' story, rather than vice versa.
Scott McLemee - Seattle Times
[A] brilliant book. It marks the author as one of the most astute, insightful, and forthright historians of this generation. Not least of Annette Gordon-Reed's achievements is her ability to bring fresh perspectives to the life of a man whose personality and character have been scrutinized, explained, and justified by a host of historians and biographers.
The Hemingses of Monticello may stir old passions by taking everything that is documented and then pushing the tale further. meditation on the fluid and conditional nature of something many Americans have regarded as fixed: our individual racial heritage.Were the children of Jefferson and Hemings white or black? Both? Neither? In antebellum Virginia, the answers to those questions meant freedom or bondage. In our country, will there ever come a day when those answers mean nothing?
The Hemingses of Monticello explores a thorny but important chapter in American history with distinction and clarity, offering a poignant, if also often ugly, chronicle of slavery, secrecy and family tension.
"[Listeners] will find it absorbing." The New York Times
As Gordon-Reed writes, our reaction to the idea that Jefferson, a lifelong proponent of emancipation, could own slaves and sustain an intimate relationship with a woman who was not only his property but his dead wife's half-sister, and that Hemings could participate in the relationship, makes up "the very complex American response to matters involving not only slavery but even more particularly race and gender."
Not since Fawn Brodie's masterwork biography has there been a better depiction of Thomas Jefferson's life at Monticello than Gordon-Reed's story of the Hemings family. This is American history at its best.
Gordon-Reed has written not only a fair-minded and, where appropriate, critical account of Jefferson's behavior, but also an affecting account of slavery's toll. Slaves bore the brunt, but whites, even the best and brightest, were as a consequence morally maimed. This is an important book.
Judith Chettle - Richmond Times-Dispatch
An astonishing feat of historical re-creation. Francois Furstenberg
[M]arks the author as one of the most astute, insightful, and forthright historians of this generation. Edmund S. Morgan and Marie Morgan
In her new book Gordon-Reed has not abandoned her incisive legal approach to evidence, but here she has essentially become a historian, and a superb one. She has set out to do what she thinks professional historians should have been doing all along. With great historical imagination, she has done far more than put together a convincing case for the Jefferson-Hemings relationship. She has also reconstructed the complicated and intimate relations between black and white families in And perhaps most important, she has uncovered the many expressions of humanity by both blacks and whites existing within a fundamentally inhumane institution. Gordon S. Wood
Gordon-Reed has written not only a fair-minded and, where appropriate, critical account of Jefferson's behavior, but also an affecting account of slavery's toll. Slaves bore the brunt, but whites, even the best and brightest, were as a consequence morally maimed. This is an important book. Judith Chettle
The Hemingses of Monticello makes a powerful argument for the historical significance of the Hemings family not only for its engagement with a principal architect of the early Republic, but also for the ways the family embodies the complexities and contradictions of slavery in the United States. James Smethurst