MEDIA ADVISORY: New Scholarship Examines William Short's Anti-Slavery Proposal to Thomas Jefferson

May 12, 2011 — On Tuesday, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter Onuf, Thomas Jefferson Foundation Professor of History at the University of Virginia, will lead the first public discussion of new scholarship about how William Short, an anti-slavery visionary and "adoptive son" of Thomas Jefferson, may have pushed Jefferson on the slavery issue.

Gordon-Reed and Onuf will discuss the possibility that experimental 100-acre tenant farms could have served as a path to emancipation.

Several U.Va. researchers will present their findings on Jefferson's response to a proposed tenant farm experiment at the Indian Camp property (now known as Morven Farm) near Monticello, which Jefferson managed for Short.

The panel discussion will be moderated by Onuf, with Gordon-Reed as respondent.

Media are welcome at the event, May 17, 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the Jefferson Library
at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies, just down the road from Monticello.

Public seating is already filled, but there is limited space for media. Please R.S.V.P. to to insure a seat. A video of the event will be available to media upon request.

Directions: The Jefferson Library is located on Route 53, almost half a mile past the Monticello entrance. Turn right at the white gateposts (an oval sign mentions Kenwood and the Jefferson Library). Park in the first lots you come to and walk uphill to the library, the large building at the top of the circle.


• Annette Gordon-Reed, the author of "The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family," for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in History and the National Book Award. A MacArthur Fellow and a recipient of the National Humanities Medal, she holds three appointments at Harvard University: professor of law, professor of history and Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. She is the author of four books, including, "Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy," and the editor of "Race on Trial: Law and Justice in American History." Her most recent book, "Andrew Johnson: The American Presidents Series: The 17th President, 1865-1869," was released in January.

• Peter Onuf, Thomas Jefferson Foundation Professor of History at the University of Virginia. Onuf has written extensively on sectionalism, federalism and political economy, with a particular emphasis on the political thought of Thomas Jefferson, most recently in a collection of his essays, "The Mind of Thomas Jefferson." He is the "18th Century Guy" on the "BackStory with the American History Guys" public radio program.

• Scot French, U.Va. associate professor of history and director of U.Va.'s Virginia Center for Digital History. He will present three digital visualizations that graphically describe themes in the correspondence between Jefferson and Short, and how they reflect contemporary events and international discourse.

• Billy L. Wayson, a 2008 U.Va. Ph.D. graduate in history whose analysis of Short's business investments and of Jefferson as a planter situate Short's proposals in the context of the period's plantation agriculture – already affected by the volatility of commodity export prices, institutionalization of finance and the influence of politics on markets – and attendant practical and political obstacles.

• Nicholas P. Wood, a U.Va. Ph.D. student whose work provides context about transatlantic slavery and abolition in the second half of the 18th century and contemporary questions regarding the morality and expediency of slavery.

• Randall J. Winston, a U.Va. graduate student who describes Short's evolution from a slave owner to an anti-slavery visionary, and how Short's stance on race and slavery compared to Jefferson's.

Media Contact

H. Brevy Cannon

Media Relations Associate Office of University Communications