Thomas Jefferson wrote about liberty and freedom and yet owned over six hundred slaves during his lifetime.
He’s a founder who many of us have a hard time understanding.
This is why we need an expert to lead us through his life, so we can better understand who Jefferson was and how he came to his seemingly paradoxical ideas about slavery and freedom.
Annette Gordon-Reed, a professor of history and legal history at Harvard University and the winner of the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for her work on Thomas Jefferson and the Hemings Family, leads us on an exploration through the life and ideas of Thomas Jefferson.
About the Show
Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.
It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.
Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.
In this episode, Annette Gordon-Reed, a professor of history and legal history at Harvard University and the winner of the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for her work on Thomas Jefferson and the Hemings family, leads us on an exploration through the life and ideas of Thomas Jefferson.
During our investigation, Annette reveals how studying Thomas Jefferson allows us to get at many people and events of the American Revolution and early republic periods; What it means to study Jefferson and other people from the past on their own terms and in their own times; And, details about Jefferson’s ideas about politics, slavery, and religion.
What You’ll Discover
- How Thomas Jefferson allows us to study many aspects of early American history
- The state of historical scholarship on Thomas Jefferson
- What it means to study someone within their own time and on their own terms
- Tips for reading and researching history with objectivity
- What it was like to co-write & collaborate on The Most Blessed of the Patriarchs
- Jefferson and religion
- Jefferson’s ideas about patriarchs and patriarchy
- How Jefferson may have viewed his role as a “founding father”
- Thomas Jefferson’s childhood & education
- Jefferson and slavery
- The Jefferson Bible
- The portrayal of Thomas Jefferson in Hamilton: An American Musical
Links to People, Places, and Publications
- Annette Gordon-Reed
- Annette at Harvard Law School
- Annette on Twitter: @agordonreed
- “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination
- Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy
- The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family
- Hamilton the Musical
- Hamilton Documentary
- Omohundro Institute
- “Doing History: To the Revolution!” Preview Episode
- Episode 027: Lisa Wilson, A History of Stepfamilies in Early America
- Episode 026: Robert Middlekauff, George Washington’s Revolution
- Episode 033: Douglas Bradburn, George Washington and his Library
- Episode 061: Edward Larson, George Washington in Retirement
- Episode 096: Nicholas Guyatt, The Origins of Racial Segregation in the United States
- Episode 107: Mary Sarah Bilder, Madison's Hand
Time Warp Question
In your opinion, what might have happened if Thomas Jefferson had taken action to abolish slavery in the United States? What actions do you think he would have taken to abolish slavery and how would these actions have affected his political career, our memory of him, and the course of United States history?
Questions, Comments, Suggestions
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Hey Liz, wonderful episode. It is so easy to look back and judge how someone should have acted. It was refreshing to hear Annette’s thoughts based on Jefferson’s potential perspective. Would he have released his slaves? Tough to answer. Annette seemed to indicate that his ownership of slaves was good for them so I am not really sure.