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Dumas Malone

Dumas Malone (January 10, 1892 – December 27, 1986) was an American historian, biographer, and editor noted for his six-volume biography on Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson and His Time, for which he received the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for history. In 1983 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.


  • Early life and education 1
  • Career 2
    • Treatment of Jefferson as slaveowner 2.1
  • Legacy and honors 3
  • References 4

Early life and education

Born at Coldwater, Mississippi, Malone received his bachelor's degree in 1910 from Emory College (Emory University). In 1916 he received his divinity degree from Yale University. Between 1917 and 1919 during the First World War, he became a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. Following the war, he returned to Yale University where he obtained his Master's (1921) and doctorate (1923) degrees. He won the John Addison Porter prize in 1923 for his dissertation The Public Life of Thomas Cooper, 1783-1839 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1926).


Malone served on the faculty of Yale University, Columbia University, and the University of Virginia, where he was the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Professor of History. He was a Director of the Harvard University Press and served as editor of the original Dictionary of American Biography. His first contribution to historical scholarship was a still authoritative biography of the American political commentator and educator Thomas Cooper (Yale University Press, 1926).

He is best known for his six-volume biography of Thomas Jefferson, published between 1948 and 1981, for which he earned the 1975 Pulitzer Prize. Among the many contributions of this authoritative study was Malone's inclusion in each volume of a detailed timeline of Jefferson's activities and frequent travels in his life. Malone's volumes were widely praised for their lucid and graceful writing style, for their rigorous and thorough scholarship, and for their attention to Jefferson's evolving constitutional and political thought.

Later some reviewers, however, faulted Malone, believing he had a tendency to adopt Jefferson's own perspective and thus to be insufficiently critical of his occasional political errors, faults, and lapses. Some said that he was biased in favor of Jefferson and against his principal adversaries Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and John Marshall.

The six volumes, originally published by Atlantic/Little, Brown, and 2005 republished by the University of Virginia Press in 2005, were:

  • Jefferson the Virginian (1948)
  • Jefferson and the Rights of Man (1951)
  • Jefferson and the Ordeal of Liberty (1962)
  • Jefferson the President: First Term, 1801-1805 (1970)
  • Jefferson the President: Second Term, 1805-1809 (1974)
  • The Sage of Monticello (1981).

Malone also published a set of lectures, Thomas Jefferson as Political Leader, (1963) with the University of California Press.

Treatment of Jefferson as slaveowner

During the period of his work, historical studies of slavery and its influences in the United States had expanded dramatically. Some academics said that Malone had not adequately treated Jefferson's life as a slaveowner and the paradoxes inherent in his views on liberty and slavery. Malone did not examine the facts related to Jefferson's long alleged relationship with his slave Sally Hemings. Annette Gordon-Reed, in her 1996 analysis of the historiography of the controversy, noted that Malone had accepted testimony by Jefferson descendants, who said two Carr nephews were the father(s) of Hemings' children, but dismissed accounts by former slaves, including Sally's son Madison Hemings, although these were better supported by available facts.[1]

Legacy and honors

Malone died on December 27, 1986 at Charlottesville, Virginia. He is buried at the University of Virginia Cemetery and Columbarium in Charlottesville.


  1. ^ Annette Gordon-Reed, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (1996/1997), pp. 80-83
  2. ^ Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1983-02-23, retrieved 2009-07-30
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