Annette Gordon-Reed Tag

Juneteenth--also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, and Emancipation Day--is now a formal holiday nationwide, celebrating the emancipation of people formally enslaved in the United States. It's been a long time comin'.

Laid low last week by an acute case of food poisoning, I swam in and out of cognitive ratiocination in a fog of rolling nausea. But I had some insights on race, precipitated probably by news of the reliably unchangeable British family–which of late is happily more changeable. These insights, such as they were, are on whiteness—and on families. But the American version, with two major characters. Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), draftsman of the Declaration of Independence, the nation’s first secretary of state (1789–94), second vice president (1797–1801) and, as the third president (1801–09), the statesman responsible for the Louisiana Purchase. An early advocate of total separation of church and state, he also was founder and architect of the University of Virginia and the most eloquent proponent of individual freedom as the meaning of the American Revolution. Sallie Hemings (1773-1835) came to Jefferson's Virginia estate, Monticello, as an enslaved infant, part of...