Annette Gordon-Reed to be Class of 2021 Commencement speaker

Gordon-Reed has received accolades for her scholarship on race and slavery in American history, including the Pulitzer Prize for history, the Frederick Douglass Book Prize and the National Humanities Medal.

by The Dartmouth Senior Staff | 5/10/21 1:48pm


Gordon-Reed served on the Board of Trustees from 2010–2018. 

by John Odland / The Dartmouth

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and Harvard University law professor Annette Gordon-Reed ’81 will be the Class of 2021 Commencement speaker, the College announced Monday afternoon. Gordon-Reed will deliver the main address and receive an honorary degree during the June 13 ceremony. 

Gordon-Reed is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard. Previously, she has held professorships at the University of Oxford and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. 

Her seminal work, “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family,” follows the history of enslaved woman Sarah Hemings — with whom her owner and former president Thomas Jefferson had several children — and Hemings’ family. For the book, Gordon-Reed won the 2008 National Book Award and the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for history. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the American Philosophical Society, Gordon-Reed has also received a breadth of other accolades throughout her career, including the Frederick Douglass Book Prize, a Guggenheim fellowship in the humanities and the National Humanities Medal. 

Since her graduation, Gordon-Reed has remained engaged with the Dartmouth community. She was a member of the Board of Trustees from 2010 to 2018 — bringing an academic perspective to the Board, according to community members at the time — and a panelist at the 2013 inauguration of College President Phil Hanlon. She has also given talks on campus about Jefferson and the Constitution. 

Additional speakers will address the graduating class during the ceremony. College President Phil Hanlon and the senior class’s valedictory speaker — to be announced once final grades are calculated in early June — will deliver their own speeches. 

This year’s honorary degree recipients will also include attorney and economist Roger W. Ferguson Jr., poet and essayist Louise Glück, founder and CEO of the online learning platform Khan Academy Sal Khan — who addressed the Class of 2020 at last year’s virtual graduation — Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, artist and poet N. Scott Momaday, nuclear physicist Ernest J. Moniz and choreographer Moses Pendleton ’71. Ferguson and Moniz will be attending the Tuck School of Business and Thayer School of Engineering investiture ceremonies, respectively. 

Gordon-Reed did not respond to requests for comment by press time.