Gordon-Reed to speak about Thomas Jefferson for inaugural David T. Konig Lecture

Gordon-Reed to speak about Thomas Jefferson for inaugural David T. Konig Lecture

An acclaimed legal historian, Gordon-Reed is the author of "On Juneteenth."

Annette Gordon-Reed

Internationally renowned scholar and author Annette Gordon-Reed will visit Washington University on April 21 to give the inaugural David T. Konig Lecture. Gordon-Reed is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard, where she teaches both history and law. She will talk about how Americans understand their own history, beginning with the legacy of Thomas Jefferson and its relationship to freedom and slavery.

Gordon-Reed is the author of The Hemingses of Monticello (2008). This Pulitzer Prize-winning book provided the first comprehensive of the Hemingses, a family of enslaved people that included Sally Hemings and Jefferson’s own enslaved children.  In the process of telling the story of one enslaved family, Gordon-Reed reconsiders the legacy of Monticello and the experience of enslavement. Most recently, she published On Juneteenth (2021), which combines history, family chronicle, and memoir to explore the history of the day commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. On Juneteenth was listed on numerous best books of the year lists, earning praise from the New York Times and Oprah Daily.

“Annette Gordon-Reed is a remarkable historian.  She is among a very small number of scholars with law degrees whose work has transformed how we understand the past,” said Peter Kastor, the Samuel K. Eddy Professor and the organizer of the Konig Lecture. “At a time when we talk about convergence in academic work, she is a great example of how different perspectives can come together, not only in her own work but also in how widely her work has been embraced by historians. She is equally gifted at reaching both academic and general audiences. Her books have reshaped the conversation in academic circles while remaining accessible to non-specialists. Likewise, her talks have enabled people around the country to engage fascinating questions in law and society, enslavement and freedom, race and history.”

“The David T. Konig Lecture is the product of a long collaboration between Professor Konig and a former student, Dr. Tom Fulbrigh,” Kastor said.  “That relationship also reflects Konig’s profound impact on his students over more than forty years of teaching at Washington University.  Konig and Fulbright worked together to bring a number of speakers to Wash. U. in the past.  Fulbright’s generosity has continued, and along with other donors he established the endowment for the Konig Lecture.”

The Konig Lecture series commemorates the work of David T. Konig, professor emeritus of history and law at Washington University. Trained as a historian, Konig is an expert on Anglo-American legal theory and a leading authority on Thomas Jefferson and the foundation of law in colonial and revolutionary America.

“David was one of the architects of modern legal history, of the idea that historians can learn from academic lawyers,” Kastor said. “He helped establish the idea that historical research can inform our understanding of the law. It is fitting that a scholar like Gordon-Reed would be the first speaker in a lecture series that bears his name.”

The event is co-sponsored by the departments of History and African and African American Studies, the American Culture Studies Program, the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity, and the School of Law.

Gordon-Reed will speak about “The Jefferson Image in the American Mind in the 21st century” Thursday, April 21 at 4:30 p.m. in Holmes Lounge and on Zoom. More information can be found on the Department of History website.