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Annette Gordon-Reed


Mr. President, it is my honor to present Dr. Annette Gordon-Reed, the Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard University, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and a leading voice on the history of race in America.

Dr. Gordon-Reed, you have done momentous work to recover the stories of enslaved Africans, especially through your books “Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy” and “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family.” Through your exhaustive research and engrossing prose, you revived national interest in the complex and proud Hemings family whose blood ties to Thomas Jefferson — supported through DNA analysis — had long been the source of conjecture and debate. Thanks to your tireless investigation, and by giving a platform to those whose accounts had routinely been dismissed by scholars, you exposed how historians risk being misguided by their own biases and cautioned us against contorting evidence to preserve our preexisting opinions of significant historical figures.

The many awards earned by “The Hemingses of Monticello,” including the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in History and the National Book Award for nonfiction, are a testament to how your work has decoded the ways in which history is shaped and how new information must compel us to reconsider popular narratives. Among other honors that have confirmed your prestigious standing among history’s finest scholars are the National Humanities Medal awarded to you by President Barack Obama, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a MacArthur Fellowship. You also are an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the American Philosophical Society.

Dr. Gordon-Reed, in your recent memoir “On Juneteenth,” you provide essential context to the Juneteenth holiday as it has evolved into a central theme of our difficult and necessary national conversation. Through your vivid writings, you urge us understand the significance of this important day both on a personal level for Black Texans like yourself, and for a nation grappling with a past that you continue to rediscover and help redefine.

Mr. President, on behalf of the trustees, faculty, students, and staff of Clark University, I request that the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, be conferred on Dr. Annette Gordon-Reed.