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The Hemingses of Monticello

An American Family

Annette Gordon-Reed (Author, Harvard Law School)


Winner of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize: “[A] commanding and important book.”—Jill Lepore, The New Yorker

This epic work—named a best book of the year by the Washington Post, Time, the Los Angeles Times, Amazon, the San Francisco Chronicle, and a notable book by the New York Times—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.

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • September 2009
  • ISBN 978-0-393-33776-1
  • 6.2 × 9.2 in / 816 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Other Formats

  1. Book CoverThe Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family



Endorsements & Reviews

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

“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. ” — Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“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, The New Republic

“Hemings and her extended family receive a worthy biography. ” — St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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? ” — San Diego Union-Tribune

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. ” — Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Because of Gordon-Reed, Hemings and her ancestors and descendants achieve full personhood. For that, the author deserves praise and lots of readers. ” — Minneapolis Star-Tribune

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. ” — Bookpage

“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. ” — Dallas Morning News

“[M]arks 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

“An astonishing feat of historical re-creation. ” — François Furstenberg, Slate

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  1. Book Cover"Most Blessed of the Patriarchs": Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination


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