Cleary Celebrates Black History Month With Annette Gordon-Reed

February 29, 2024

Cleary Gottlieb hosted its Black History Month celebration, Reclaiming Black History and Forging a Path for Progress, featuring Annette Gordon-Reed, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Harvard Law School professor, and MacArthur Genius.

Managing Partner Michael Gerstenzang delivered welcome remarks and global director of diversity, equity, and inclusion Laura Shepherd hosted a Q&A following the keynote address.

A professor of history in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University and the Carl M. Loeb University professor at Harvard Law School, Anette has devoted her life to understanding the connections between the Black experience in the United States, which she details in her keynote address. During the event, she explored the history of Black History Month and how people can learn from the past and keep striving for progress together. She drew on her latest book, On Juneteenth, which sets out to capture the integral importance of the holiday to American history through her own family’s experiences in Texas.

“Black history is more than just tragedy. It’s also a celebration of our accomplishments and strengths,” Annette said. “One of the things I hope will come from the continued support of Black history and Black History Month is people understanding that these stories can be told without making people feel responsible for things that happened in the past. You’re responsible only to the extent that you look at that and understand that we can do better, and we have done better.”

Annette is also the author of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, which won the Pulitzer Prize in history and the National Book Award for nonfiction—along with 14 other awards; Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy; and “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination.

Her honors include the National Humanities Medal (awarded by President Barack Obama), a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a MacArthur Fellowship. Annette was also elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is a member of the Academy’s Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences. In 2019, she was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society. Annette was also the first Black student to enroll in an all-white school in her town in Texas. There is now a school named after her there.

Cleary is committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion. The firm regularly hosts important cultural events and guest speakers whose presentations afford opportunities to broaden awareness, heighten the level of discussion, and establish a culture of inclusion at the firm. To learn more about Cleary’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, click here.