The 2015 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize will go to Harold Holzer, one of the country’s leading authorities on Abraham Lincoln and the political culture of the Civil War era, for Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public Opinion (Simon & Schuster). The prize is awarded by Gettysburg College and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Holzer was chosen from 114 nominations as the 2015 recipient. He will receive $50,000 and a bronze replica of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ life-size bust “Lincoln the Man” in a ceremony on April 23 in New York City.
The Lincoln Prize was co-founded in 1990 by businessmen and philanthropists Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman, co-chairmen of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in New York and co-creators of the Gilder Lehrman Collection, a unique archive of documents and artifacts in the nation. The Institute is devoted to history education, teacher training, digital archives, curriculum development, exhibitions and publications, and the National History Teacher of the Year Award program.
In his book, Holzer examines Abraham Lincoln’s lifelong relationship with the press, particularly with the powerful and influential New York editors James Gordon Bennett, Horace Greeley, and Henry J. Raymond, and explores how, in the age of Lincoln, the press and politics often functioned in tandem as a single, tightly organized entity. In addition, Holzer chronicles how acute conflicts arose between the government and the press during the Civil War, as Lincoln sought to defend the Union against an insurrection that challenged the president’s ability to balance the demands of national security with the protection of individual rights—including freedom of the press. Holzer emphasizes the “war for public opinion” that took place between Lincoln and his Democratic Party rivals over thirty years, a rivalry that set the terms of the debate regarding the future of American slavery, particularly among northern white voters. While Lincoln stands as the protagonist of this historic drama, Holzer also offers a timely examination of the role of the press in a free society and popular government, especially for a nation that found itself dealing with a rebellion.
“Holzer’s book breaks new ground, assembles unforgettable characters, and tells a gripping story about Lincoln and the war for public opinion in the media of his time. It is great history and an engrossing read, for specialists and general readers alike,” Gilder Lehrman Institute president James G. Basker said. “There is no question that the scholarship produced about Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War era continues to flourish, as demonstrated by the strength of the finalists for the 2015 Lincoln Prize,” said Gettysburg College president Janet Morgan Riggs. “Harold Holzer’s meticulously researched prize-winning book offers new insight into the relationship between politicians and the press during the Civil War era, as well as into Abraham Lincoln as a leader. This book will no doubt draw the attention of those with interest in Lincoln and the Civil War, as well as those with interest in the evolution of the United States press.”
The three-member 2015 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize jury—Lucas E. Morel, Washington & Lee University Class of 1960 Professor of Ethics and Politics; three-time Lincoln Prize–winner Allen C. Guelzo, Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era and Director of Civil War Era Studies at Gettysburg College; and Joan Waugh, Professor of History at the University of California, Los Angeles—recommended six outstanding finalists to the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize Board, which makes the final decision. In addition to Gilder, Lehrman, Basker, and Riggs, the Board includes Gettysburg College trustees emeritus James R. Thomas and H. Scott Higgins. Past Lincoln Prize winners include Ken Burns in 1991 for his documentary The Civil War; Doris Kearns Goodwin for Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln in 2006; and Eric Foner for The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery in 2011. The 2014 Prize went to co-winners Guelzo, for Gettysburg: The Last Invasion, and Martin P. Johnson, for Writing the Gettysburg Address. Steven Spielberg also received a Special Achievement Award in 2014 for the movie Lincoln, which won two Academy Awards, was nominated for twelve, and grossed over $275 million worldwide.
Harold Holzer is one of the country’s leading authorities on Abraham Lincoln and the political culture of the Civil War era. A prolific writer and lecturer, and frequent guest on television, Holzer serves as chairman of The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation, successor organization to the U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission (ALBC), to which he was appointed by President Clinton in 2000, and which he co-chaired from 2001 to 2010. President Bush, in turn, awarded Holzer the National Humanities Medal in 2008. And in 2013, Holzer wrote an essay on Lincoln for the official program at the re-inauguration of President Barack Obama. He is serving currently as the first Roger Hertog Fellow at the New-York Historical Society. Holzer has authored, co-authored, and edited more than 45 previous books on Lincoln and the Civil War. He recently announced his retirement from the Metropolitan Museum, where he has worked for 23 years, most recently as senior vice president for public affairs. Holzer won a second-place Lincoln Prize in 2005 for his book Lincoln at Cooper Union: The Speech that Made Abraham Lincoln President.
ABOUT THE FINALISTS.
William Blair, in With Malice Toward Some: Treason and Loyalty in the Civil War Era (UNC Press), presents a close look at the difficult and complicated subject of treason, and goes beyond the legal or judicial treatment of treason to examine its de facto definition and even punishment by civilians loyal to the American union.
Richard Brookhiser’s Founders’ Son: A Life of Abraham Lincoln (Basic Books) is a compelling new biography of Abraham Lincoln that highlights his lifelong struggle to carry on the work of the Founding Fathers.
James B. Conroy, in Our One Common Country: Abraham Lincoln and the Hampton Roads Peace Conference of 1865 (Lyons Press), explores the most critical meeting of the Civil War. Given short shrift or overlooked by many historians, the Hampton Roads Conference of 1865 was a crucial turning point in the Civil War.
Jonathan W. White, in Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln (LSU Press), challenges the reigning paradigm that the Union army’s overwhelming vote for Lincoln’s reelection in 1864 meant that the soldiers supported the Republican Party and its effort to abolish slavery.
Joshua Zeitz’s Lincoln’s Boys: John Hay, John Nicolay, and the War for Lincoln’s Image (Penguin) provides a timely and intimate look into Abraham Lincoln’s White House through the lives of his two closest aides and confidants.
ABOUT THE SPONSORS OF THE GILDER LEHRMAN LINCOLN PRIZE
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is a nonprofit devoted to the teaching and learning of American history. Gilder Lehrman draws on top scholars, an unparalleled collection of original historical documents, and a national network of more than 6,000 Affiliate Schools to create and provide a broad range of innovative resources to help teachers, students, scholars, and the general public learn about American history in a way that is engaging and memorable. Each year the Institute offers support and resources to tens of thousands of teachers, and through them enhances the education of more than a million students. The Institute’s programs have been recognized by awards from the White House, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Organization of American Historians. For more information: www.gilderlehrman.org.
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, which enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students, is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.