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$50,000 Prize and Title of American Historian Laureate to Be Presented at Weekend with History Friday, April 8, 2016

New York, NY, February 12, 2016 —Dr. Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the New-York Historical Society, announced today that historian Eric Foner will be honored with New-York Historical’s annual American History Book Prize for Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2015). The award recognizes the best book of the year in the field of American history or biography. Professor Foner will receive a $50,000 cash award, an engraved medal, and the title of American Historian Laureate, which will be presented on April 8, 2016. The ceremony is part of New-York Historical’s eleventh annual Chairman’s Council Weekend with History, a two-day event featuring an array of speakers discussing important historical events that have impacted New York City and the nation.

“Eric Foner’s riveting, inspiring story of fugitive slaves and the individuals who helped them to reach freedom contributes to our understanding of the history of American slavery,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the New-York Historical Society.  “The book presents new evidence about previously unknown protagonists in the networks of resistance known as the Underground Railroad. Its focus on New York and the North as centers of pro-slavery and abolitionist movements echoes our institution’s rich Museum and Library collections as well as its programming. Serendipitously, Gateway to Freedom has been named winner of New-York Historical’s 2016 American History Book Prize just as our institution commemorates the tenth anniversary of its landmark Slavery in New York exhibition, which introduced the public to the largely-unknown history of New York as an early capital of American slavery.”

“The award is a wonderful surprise,” said Eric Foner. “It is indeed an honor to join the distinguished list of historians who have received it.  As one who has benefitted enormously from the archives of the New-York Historical Society―including research for this book―as well as lecturing and helping to curate exhibits there, I am particularly gratified to receive the award from this indispensable institution.”

Gateway to Freedom was selected by a prize committee comprised of historians and New-York Historical leadership from a field of 131 submissions. The book tells the story of the Underground Railroad in New York City and along the East Coast. It chronicles the efforts of an intrepid band of black and white abolitionists to assist fugitive slaves who passed through New York City, in the face of the city’s close connections with the slave South through the cotton trade and burgeoning textile industry. Working outward from a unique document―the “Record of Fugitives” compiled by abolitionist editor Sydney Howard Gay in 1855 and 1856―Gateway to Freedom investigates how and why slaves escaped from bondage, who helped them, and their final destinations. It also examines the broader impact of the fugitive slave issue on national politics, American law, and the sectional conflict.  It elucidates the actions of fugitives and their allies who played a major role in the coming of the Civil War and the end of slavery.

Eric Foner currently serves as the DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University. He received his doctoral degree at Columbia under the supervision of Richard Hofstadter. He is one of only two persons to serve as president of the three major professional organizations: the Organization of American Historians, American Historical Association, and Society of American Historians; and one of a handful to have won the Bancroft and Pulitzer Prizes in the same year. Among his many publications is The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, published in 2010 and the recipient of the Bancroft Prize, Pulitzer Prize for History, and The Lincoln Prize.

The American History Book Prize was previously awarded to Jill Lepore for The Secret History of Wonder Woman; Doris Kearns Goodwin for Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln; David Nasaw for Andrew Carnegie; Daniel Walker Howe for What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815–1848; Drew Gilpin Faust for This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War; Gordon S. Wood for Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789– 1815; Ron Chernow for George Washington: A Life; John Lewis Gaddis for George F. Kennan: An American Life; Robert Caro for Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power; and Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy for The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire.

The Chairman’s Council is comprised of New-York Historical’s most committed supporters who are partners in N-YHS’ mission to engage a broad range of people in American history through groundbreaking exhibitions, thought-provoking programs, and educational activities that bring history to life. Individuals may be invited to join the Chairman’s Council by New-York Historical Trustees and senior staff and by existing members of the Council. For more information on Weekend with History or the Chairman’s Council, please contact Claire Moskowitz at 212-485-9280 / claire.moskowitz@nyhistory.org.

Friday, April 8, and Saturday, April 9, 2016

Throughout this special weekend, attendees will have the opportunity to hear from eminent historians, scholars, and experts providing insightful perspectives on a host of topics―from the infamous dispute between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson that came to shape the early American Republic to riveting new details about the Watergate Scandal uncovered by leading investigative reporter and author, Bob Woodward.

Participating Speakers
AKHIL REED AMAR, Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science, Yale University
PHILIP C. BOBBITT, Herbert Wechsler Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the Center on National Security, Columbia Law School
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, Professor of History, Rice University and CNN presidential historian
ANNETTE GORDON-REED, Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History, Harvard Law School
ROGER HERTOG, Chairman of the Executive Committee, New-York Historical Society
DAVID M. KENNEDY, Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History Emeritus, Stanford University
KENNETH W. RENDELL, Founder and Executive Director, The Museum of World War II, Boston
DAVID RUBENSTEIN, Co-founder and Co-CEO, The Carlyle Group
BRET STEPHENS, Deputy Editor, The Wall Street Journal
SEAN WILENTZ, George Henry Davis 1886 Professor of American History, Princeton University
BOB WOODWARD, Author and Journalist

About the New-York Historical Society
Founded in 1804, the New-York Historical Society has a mission to explore the richly layered history of New York City, state, and the country, as well as to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history. New York Historical is recognized for engaging the public with deeply researched and far-ranging exhibitions, such as Alexander Hamilton: The Man Who Made Modern America; Slavery in New York; Nature and the American Vision: The Hudson River School at the New-York Historical Society; Nueva York; Revolution! The Atlantic World Reborn; WWII & NYC; The Armory Show at 100: Modern Art and Revolution; Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion; Superheroes in Gotham; and Silicon City: Computer History Made in New York. Supporting these exhibitions and related education programs is one of the world’s greatest collections of historical artifacts, works of American art, and other materials documenting the history of the United States and New York.

Press Contacts
Ines Aslan, (212) 873-3400 x263, ines.aslan@nyhistory.org
Marybeth Ihle, (212) 873-3400 x326, marybeth.ihle@nyhistory.org

Friday, February 12, 2016
Creative: Tronvig Group