Renowned historian and legal scholar Annette Gordon-Reed has earned acclaim as one of the most important American minds of our time. In 2009, she made headlines after becoming the first African American scholar to win the Pulitzer Prize for History. This was for her 2008 nonfiction book on the Hemings family, which helped changed the scholarship on Thomas Jefferson and the remarkable, multigenerational Hemings family. The book would later go on to win 15 more additional awards due to its insightful reflection on the Black experience.
Currently, Gordon-Reed balances her time as a professor of law and history at Harvard University. In addition, she has received accolades for her scholarship on race and slavery in American history, including the Frederick Douglass Book Prize, the National Humanities Medal, the National Book Award for Nonfiction, and a MacArthur Fellowship. In 2019, she was elected as a member of the American Philosophical Society.
Even before enrolling in Dartmouth University, Gordon-Reed had always been fascinated by Thomas Jefferson. However, as a student in the late 1970's, she found the political climate to be very different from what it is now. At Dartmouth, she wanted to write a senior paper examining the evidence for Jefferson's relationship with Sally Hemings, the enslaved woman who was his deceased wife’s half-sister. Her professor nixed the notion, so Gordon-Reed held onto the idea, which would later become the basis of her groundbreaking 1997 book, "Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy." Besides academics, the future author was active on campus as well, serving on a committee that was focused on how to attract more Black faculty to Dartmouth. In 1981 she graduated with high distinction with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history.
In the years since her graduation, Gordon-Reed has been a contributor to Dartmouth life. She was a member of the board of trustees from 2010 to 2018 and has been a featured speaker at several Dartmouth events, including a panel discussion about the value and future of the liberal arts held in conjunction with President Hanlon's inauguration. Her son, Gordon P. Reed, also graduated from Dartmouth in 2015. More recently, Dartmouth announced that that the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian will be delivering the main address at the university's 2021 commencement. In recognition of her many contributions to the world, as well as exemplifying the Dartmouth standard for excellence, Gordon-Reed will also be receiving an honorary doctorate at the June 2021 ceremony.