Annette Gordon-Reed is the Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History at Harvard Law School and Professor of History in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard. She is the author of, among other books, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, which won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for History, and “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination, with Peter S. Onuf. (August 2017)


Our Trouble with Sex: A Christian Story?

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg officiating at the wedding of David Hagedorn and Michael Widomski, Washington, D.C., 2013

Sex and the Constitution: Sex, Religion, and Law from America’s Origins to the Twenty-First Century

by Geoffrey R. Stone
What interest do people living in a supposedly secular and liberal society have in regulating perhaps the most intimate aspect of an adult’s life—consensual sexual behavior with another adult? How do people decide which sexual acts, conducted in private, have a public impact and, therefore, become the public’s business? For our purposes, why do Americans think as we do about sex, and how have we used the Constitution, and the laws of the fifty states, to instantiate those beliefs?

The Captive Aliens Who Remain Our Shame

Johannes Adam Oertel: Pulling Down the Statue of King George III, 1848

The Common Cause: Creating Race and Nation in the American Revolution

by Robert Parkinson
It is a commonplace that being an American is a matter neither of blood nor of cultural connections forged over time. It is, instead, a commitment to a set of ideals famously laid down by the country’s founders, and refined over generations with a notion of progress as a guiding principle. Of course, what it means to be an American is not—has never been—so simple a proposition.


Charlottesville: Why Jefferson Matters

White supremacists, neo-Nazis, and members of the alt-right, encircle counterprotestors at the base of a statue of Thomas Jefferson on the University of Virginia campus, Charlottesville, Virginia, August 11, 2017

It was not necessarily Thomas Jefferson himself, but the ideas associated with him that mattered that night in Charlottesville, and warranted forming a protective barrier around his statue on the University of Virginia campus. I have no doubt that the people trying to keep the tiki torchers away from the statue know about the problematic aspects of Jefferson. Because he was at or near the heart of so many aspects of the American founding for such a long time—longer than any other member of the founding generation—we have had many occasions to ponder Jefferson’s complex nature and legacy.