New York, NY (November 20, 2008)—New York Law School Professor Annette Gordon-Reed won the 2008 National Book Award in the nonfiction category for her latest book, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (W.W. Norton, 2008), making her the first African American woman to win the prize for nonfiction in the 59 years of the award’s history.
The winners of the awards were announced last night by the National Book Foundation. Awards are given in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and young people’s literature. This year, publishers submitted more than 1,200 books, with 540 in the nonfiction category. This year’s winners received a bronze statue and $10,000. To view a complete list of winners, visit The National Book Foundation.
“On behalf of the entire Law School community, I want to congratulate Annette on winning this prestigious award for a book that sheds light on a story most America ns do not know about—not just the story of Thomas Jefferson—but the story of his family of slaves,” Dean and President Richard A. Matasar said. “We celebrate her success and look forward to reading many more rave reviews.”
The Hemingses of Monticello, Professor Gordon-Reed’s fourth book, chronicles the history of a slave family over three generations; it brings to life not only Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson, but also their children and Hemings’s siblings.
Professor Gordon-Reed has had a lifelong fascination with Thomas Jefferson, beginning in elementary school after she read a children’s biography of him narrated by a fictional slave boy. At 14, she joined the Book-of-the-Month Club (concealing her status as a minor) to receive Fawn Brodie’s biography, Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate Portrait. She continued her study of Jefferson’s life at Dartmouth College.
In 1997, Professor Gordon-Reed’s first book, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy, received critical acclaim. In the book she challenged the many distinguished Jefferson biographers who dismissed the idea of an intimate relationship between Jefferson and Hemings. Though she did not take a definitive position on whether Jefferson and Hemings had an affair or whether Jefferson fathered Hemings’s children, she argued that it was important to look at the lives of the black people who were part of his life. A year later, DNA tests proved that Jefferson had fathered Hemings’s children.
Professor Gordon-Reed is also the author of Race on Trial: Law and Justice in American History and Vernon Can Read!: A Memoir. She received an A.B. from Dartmouth in 1981 and a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1984. She has taught at New York Law School since 1992 and is also a professor of history at Rutgers University.
About New York Law School
Founded in 1891, New York Law School is an independent law school located in lower Manhattan near the city’s centers of law, government, and finance. New York Law School’s renowned faculty of prolific scholars has built the School’s strength in such areas as constitutional law, civil and human rights, labor and employment law, media and information law, urban legal studies, international and comparative law, and a number of interdisciplinary fields. The School is noted for its eight academic centers: Center for International Law, Center for New York City Law, Center for Professional Values and Practice, Center for Real Estate Studies, Center on Business Law & Policy, Center on Financial Services Law, Institute for Information Law & Policy, and Justice Action Center. New York Law School has more than 13,000 graduates and enrolls some 1,500 students in its full- and part-time J.D. program and its Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Taxation program. www.nyls.edu