Winner of the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize Announced

Diane Brennan's picture
Type: 
Prize
Date: 
February 12, 2021
Location: 
Pennsylvania, United States
Subject Fields: 
American History / Studies, African American History / Studies, Ethnic History / Studies, Military History, History Education

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 Graduate Center of 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 goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or
pronounces decisions,” 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’ life-size bust, “Lincoln the
Man.”
Reynolds’ 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.”
“From one of the strongest pools of finalist books ever in the history of the Lincoln Prize, David
Reynolds’ Abe: Abraham Lincoln in His Times 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,” said President of the Gilder Lehrman
Institute of American History James G. Basker.
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’ 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
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 81 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.

Contact Info: 

Diane Brennan

Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize

405 Weidensall Hall

Gettysburg College

300 North Washington Street

Box 413

Gettysburg, PA 17325

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