Distinguished Presidential scholar on the Obamas and rewriting US history
16 April 2009
Highly respected US Presidential scholar Professor Annette Gordon-Reed, who has recently been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for history, will take a close look at the history of American race relations when she speaks exclusively at the University of Sydney on Wednesday, 22 April, 2009.
In her Sydney Ideas lecture titled "Barack and Michelle Obama: Rewriting the Narrative of American History," Gordon-Reed, the author of 2008's The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (WW Norton), will put a historical spin on the current White House residents in light of America's Founding Fathers, in particular Thomas Jefferson, who had a complicated relationship with African Americans.
She will explain how many black leaders, including Obama, have invoked America's Founding Fathers, often using Jefferson's words - "all men are created equal" - and the Declaration of Independence to establish their right to equal citizenship despite Jefferson doubting that blacks and white could ever live together equally.
As Gordon-Reed, an acclaimed lawyer and noted historian, has pointed out "when Thomas Jefferson wrote his stirring words in the Declaration of Independence about the equality of all mankind, the majority of black Americans - one fifth of the country's 2.5 million people - were enslaved, and totally outside civil and political society."
At Sydney Ideas, Gordon-Reed will discuss Obama's use of history throughout his Presidential campaign and will also explore how having a black President, First Lady and children in the White House might change the American racial landscape. "Obama's success is evidence that the United States has changed in important ways," Gordon-Reed has written. "It does not, however, signal the death of racism in the country…. Racism is no easy foe."
Annette Gordon-Reed is a professor of law at New York Law School and a professor of history at Rutgers University in the US. Last year, her book The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family was awarded the National Book Award for non-fiction. (Award judges said the book was "more than the story of Thomas Jefferson and his house slave Sally Hemings: it is a deeply moral and keenly intelligent probe of the harsh yet all-too human world they inhabited.") Gordon-Reed is also the author of the highly acclaimed and controversial 1997 book Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy.
Professor Gordon-Reed will be in Australia for the University of Sydney's Thomas Jefferson Foundation Symposium held by the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry and is also a US Studies Centre Visitor. Her Sydney Ideas appearance will be her only public lecture while in Australia.
Professor Gordon-Reed will be introduced to the Sydney Ideas stage by Professor Cassandra Pybus, an Australian Research Council Professorial Fellow from the University of Sydney's Department of History.
What: "Barack and Michelle Obama: Rewriting the Narrative of American History" - Annette Gordon-Reed at Sydney Ideas, the University of Sydney's international public lecture series
When: 6.30pm on Wednesday, 22 April, 2009.
Where: The Seymour Theatre Centre, Cnr of City Road and Cleveland Street, the University of Sydney
Cost: $20/$25 concession. Free for University of Sydney students and staff. (Please bring ID to the box office.)
Bookings: (02) 9351 7940 or online.
Next at Sydney Ideas - Social activist Paul Gilding on "The Great Disruption"
Sustainability activist and social entrepreneur Paul Gilding will discuss how our current global ecological crisis and economic stagnation have lead to "The Great Disruption" that will transform society as we know it next at Sydney Ideas.
Gilding's lecture, titled "Economic Growth Version 1.0 Is finished: The Great Disruption Has Begun" will be held at University of Sydney's Seymour Theatre Centre on Wednesday, 29 April, 2009. More information is available online.
All media are invited to attend both these lectures.
Contact: Katrina O'Brien
Phone: (02) 9036 7842