2021 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize Recipient Announced

February 12, 2021 — Gettysburg College and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History announced today that David S. Reynolds, author of Abe: Abraham Lincoln in His Times (Penguin Press), is the recipient of the 2021 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize.

Reynolds is a Distinguished Professor at the City University of New York and also a critic, historian, and biographer who explores the intersections between culture, society, and politics. In the field of history, he highlights the importance of culture. Upholding Lincoln’s view that “he who molds public sentiment is greater than he who makes statutes” throughout his extensive writing career, Reynolds reveals the importance of influential outliers who have altered public opinion and thus have had a profound impact on many aspects of American life.

He will be recognized during a virtual event hosted by Gettysburg College and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History on Monday, April 19, 2021. The award includes a $50,000 prize and a bronze replica of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s life-sized bust Lincoln the Man.

Reynolds’s 1,088-page biography Abe: Abraham Lincoln in His Times was named one of the Wall Street Journal’s Ten Best Books of the Year and a Washington Post Notable Book of the Year. It shows us the extraordinary range of cultural knowledge Lincoln drew from as he shaped a vision of true union, transforming, in Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, “the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”

James G. Basker, president of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, says: “From one of the strongest pools of finalist books ever in the history of the Lincoln Prize, David Reynolds’s book emerged as this year’s winner—a book that accomplished the impossible, to show us something new about Lincoln while also giving us a rich history of the cultural influences that shaped his world view and gave him his unsurpassed common touch with ordinary Americans. A great read.”

Basker is one of the six Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize Board members who decided this year’s winner. In addition to Lewis E. Lehrman, a co-founder of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in New York and co-creator of the Gilder Lehrman Collection alongside the late Richard Gilder, other board members include Gettysburg College President Robert W. Iuliano, Gettysburg College Trustee and alumnus Larry D. Walker ’76, Trustee Emeritus and alumnus H. Scott Higgins ’67, and Co-Head of Global Mergers and Acquisitions at Citi Mark Shafir

“Dr. Reynolds’s biography illuminates Lincoln’s transcendent words and deeds in ways that powerfully build on the author’s lifelong study of the president. But perhaps David’s most compelling contribution is how he brings to life the social, cultural, political environment that helped to shape the person Lincoln would become, and the path of progress he so masterfully forged for our nation,” said President Iuliano. “Abe: Abraham Lincoln in His Times is truly an elegant work worthy of our highest honor and celebration.”

The laureate was one of five finalists recommended to the board by a three-person jury: Edward L. Ayers, executive director of New American History and Tucker-Boatwright Professor of the Humanities at the University of Richmond, where he is president emeritus; Caroline Janney, award-winning author and John L. Nau III Professor in the History of the American Civil War at the University of Virginia, where she also directs the Nau Center for Civil War History; and Steven Mintz, professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin.

“This rich portrayal, better than any previous work, situates Lincoln in the America that shaped him and that he in turn shaped so profoundly,” wrote the jury in their report to the board. “Reynolds’ encyclopedic knowledge of America’s religion, literature, humor, and politics allows him to populate Lincoln’s nation in unprecedented detail. [He] gives us a Lincoln of his times and of ours.”

The four other finalists that the jury selected from 89 nominations include: Alice Baumgartner, South to Freedom: Runaway Slaves to Mexico and the Road to the Civil War (Basic Books); Adrian Brettle, Colossal Ambitions: Confederate Planning for a Post-Civil War World (University of Virginia Press); Thavolia Glymph, The Women’s Fight: The Civil War’s Battles for Home, Freedom, and Nation (The University of North Carolina Press); and Kenneth W. Noe, The Howling Storm: Weather, Climate, and the American Civil War (Louisiana State University Press).

About the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize

The Prize has been awarded annually to a work that enhances the general public’s understanding of the Civil War era. It was co-founded in 1990 by businessmen and philanthropists Lewis Lehrman and the late Richard Gilder, who were co-chairmen of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in New York and co-creators of the Gilder Lehrman Collection.

About the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

Founded in 1994 by Lewis E. Lehrman and the late Richard Gilder, visionaries and lifelong supporters of American history education, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is the leading nonprofit organization dedicated to K–12 history education while also serving the general public. The Institute’s mission is to promote the knowledge and understanding of American history through educational programs and resources. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is supported through the generosity of individuals, corporations, and foundations. The Institute’s programs have been recognized by awards from the White House, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Organization of American Historians, and the Council of Independent Colleges.

About Gettysburg College

Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.


Gettysburg College 
Molly Foster
(717) 383-2727

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History 
Josh Landon
(646) 366-9666