The Patriots’ Common Cause

Annette Gordon-Reed and Robert Parkinson

Conversation #4 in the “Slavery and Freedom in the Era of Revolution” series


Works mentioned during the August 10 session include the following:

The play mentioned by Robert Parkinson is “The Fall of British Tyranny” by John Leacock. You can read it here courtesy of Project Gutenberg.

Links to additional readings in slavery and the American revolution compiled by the OI are available here.

Links to readings about revolution and slavery in the Caribbean compiled by the participants Laurent Dubois and Natasha Lightfoot in the 3rd OI Conversation are available here.

Annette Gordon-Reed’s essay in the New York Review of Books on Robert Parkinson’s book, The Common Cause: Creating Race and Nation in the American Revolution, is available here. The full essay (“The Captive Aliens Who Remain Our Shame”) is only available to NYRB subscribers at this time.

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August 10, 2020 at 6:00 pm EST


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Annette Gordon-Reed is the Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History at Harvard Law School and a Professor of History in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University.

Gordon-Reed won sixteen book prizes, including the Pulitzer Prize in History in 2009  and the National Book Award in 2008, for The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (W.W. Norton, 2008). In addition to articles and reviews, her other works include Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (UVA Press, 1997). Vernon Can Read! A Memoir, a collaboration with Vernon Jordan. (PublicAffairs 2001), Race on Trial: Law and Justice in American History (Oxford University Press, 2002), a volume of essays that she edited, Andrew Johnson (Times Books/Henry Holt, 2010) and, most recently, with Peter S. Onuf,  “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination (Liveright Publishing, 2016).  Gordon-Reed was the Vyvyan Harmsworth Visiting Professor of American History at the University of Oxford (Queens College) 2014-2015. Between 2010 and 2015, she was the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.  She was the 2018-2019 President of Society for Historians of the Early American Republic. She is the current President of the Ames Foundation.  

A selected list of her honors include a fellowship from the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, a Guggenheim Fellowship in the humanities, a MacArthur Fellowship, the National Humanities Medal, the National Book Award, the Frederick Douglass Book Prize, and the George Washington Book Prize, and the Anisfeld-Wolf Book. Gordon-Reed was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011 and is a member of the Academy’s Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences. In 2019, she was elected as a member of the American Philosophical Society.

Robert Parkinson (Binghamton University) specializes in early American history, especially the American Revolution. His first book, The Common Cause: Creating Nation and Race in the American Revolution (Omohundro Institute with UNC Press) explores how questions of race collided with pressing issues of nation building at the Founding. It won the James A. Rawley Prize for the best book on American race relations. An abbreviated version, entitled Thirteen Clocks: How Race Made America Independent, is forthcoming from UNC Press in the spring of 2021.

Professor Parkinson was the 2006-2008 OI-NEH Postdoctoral Fellow and also has held fellowships at the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, the Library Company of Philadelphia, among  several others.

His current book project, The Heart of American Darkness, is a microhistory about how the grisly murder of nine Indians on a tributary of the Ohio River in 1774 exerted a surprisingly powerful influence in the political and rhetorical life of the early American republic.