Thomas Jefferson, Slavery, and Race

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Annette Gordon-Reed, left, and Peter Onuf. Photo William Farrington.

In the groundbreaking work, “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination, Annette Gordon-Reed teamed up with America’s leading Jefferson scholar, Peter S. Onuf, to analyze Thomas Jefferson’s vision of himself, the American Revolution, Christianity, slavery, and race.

Of Jefferson, a slaveholder who wrote in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal, Gordon-Reed recently said at the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska, ” He grappled with the

question of whether or not we could have a multiracial society: he didn’t think that blacks and whites could live together without turmoil, without an actual fight, a race war. Whites would never give up their prejudices against blacks and black people would never be able to forgive white people for the things that had been done to them as slaves. I was talking earlier today with faculty and students about this question—Jefferson’s attitude about race and black people’s place in society—and one of the things I said is that he brings out all of these issues very, very well and we focus in on him because other members of the founding generation did not really write about this.”

An attentive audience.

Photo William Farrington.

 

From left to right: Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Annette Gordon-Reed, Sid Lapidus, Vernon Jordan, and Peter Onuf. Photo William Farrington.

From left to right: Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Annette Gordon-Reed, Sid Lapidus, Vernon Jordan, and Peter Onuf. Photo William Farrington.

 

Gordon-Reed-20141Annette Gordon-Reed is the author of the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize–winning The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family and Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy. Gordon-Reed is  the Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History at Harvard Law School and the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study at Harvard University. She is an Advisor to the Lapidus Center.

 

P. Onuf portrait (1)Peter S. Onuf is the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor Emeritus at the University of Virginia and the senior research historian at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies. He is the author or editor of eleven books, including  The Mind of Thomas Jefferson , Nations, Markets, and War: Modern History and the American Civil War, Jefferson’s Empire, and Jeffersonian Legacies.

 

 

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