Skip to main content

GV Now

Historians to explore crossroads of slavery and American memory at Grand Valley event

  • Annette Gordon Reed and Peter Onuf stand, smiling, side-by-side in a room with books on shelves on the right wall, There is a window in the background.

Posted on January 16, 2019

Thomas Jefferson, one of the nation's founding fathers, was the most revered philosopher of the early republic's Enlightenment ideals. But he was also deeply involved in the nation's original sin of slavery.

Not only was Jefferson a slave owner: DNA testing has strongly suggested he fathered children with Sally Hemings. 

Grand Valley's Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies and the university's Division of Inclusion and Equity will host historians Annette Gordon-Reed, from Harvard University, and Peter S. Onuf, retired from the University of Virginia, for a discussion about how Americans can work toward finding common ground for the common good, especially at the troubled crossroads of race and American memory.

Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter S. Onuf: Jefferson, Slavery, and the Moral Imagination

Thursday, January 24, 7 p.m.

L.V. Eberhard Center, Room 215

301 Fulton St. W., Grand Rapids, MI 49504

The event is free and open to the public, but an RSVP is requested at

Gordon-Reed is the Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History at Harvard Law School, and has published six books, including The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, which won numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize in history and the National Book Award for nonfiction.

Onuf is an American historian and professor known for his study of Jefferson. In 1989, he was named the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor of the University of Virginia, a chair he held until retiring in 2012. He is also one of the founders of the NPR program Backstory.

This event is presented in collaboration with Grand Valley's Division of Inclusion and Equity as part of the university's week of events to commemorate the life of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

For more information, visit