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$50,000 Prize and Title of American Historian Laureate to Be Presented at Weekend with History Friday, April 21, 2017

New York, NY, March 14, 2017—Pam Schafler, chair of New-York Historical Society’s Board of Trustees, and Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of New-York Historical, announced today that historian Jane Kamensky will be honored with New-York Historical’s annual Barbara and David Zalaznick Book Prize in American History for Revolution in Color: The World of John Singleton Copley (Norton, 2016). The award recognizes the best book of the year in the field of American history or biography. Jane Kamensky will receive a $50,000 cash award, an engraved medal, and the title of American Historian Laureate, which will be presented on April 21, 2017. The ceremony is part of New-York Historical’s 12th annual Chairman’s Council Weekend with History, a two-day event featuring an array of speakers discussing important historical events that have made an impact on New York City and the nation. 

“Generations have seen John Singleton Copley’s iconic portraits of Revolutionary-era leaders, seldom realizing that these images of early American patriotism were created by a loyalist who lived out the War for Independence in London,” said Pam Schafler, chair of New-York Historical Society’s Board of Trustees. “A Revolution in the Color does masterful work in restoring this fascinating moment of history to prominence and bringing to life the turbulent times of the American Revolution. It is a true pleasure to bestow the title of American Historian Laureate on Jane for her tremendous achievement.

“It’s humbling to be chosen for such an honor, especially in a year when the practice of American history seems more urgent than at any time in the recent past,” said Jane Kamensky. “The New-York Historical Society does an extraordinary job presenting the history of colonial America and the United States to students, teachers, scholars, and the general public. I hope that the imprimatur of New-York Historical’s Barbara and David Zalaznick Book Prize in American History will help to bring the story of John Singleton Copley’s vexed, ambivalent American Revolution to that wide and important audience.”

Selected by a prize committee comprising historians and New-York Historical leadership from a field of more than 130 submissions, Revolution in Color: The World of John Singleton Copley recovers an unknown American Revolution as seen through the eyes of Boston-born painter John Singleton Copley. By the 1760s, Copley had become colonial America’s premier painter. His brush captured the faces of his neighbors—ordinary men like Paul Revere, John Hancock, and Samuel Adams—who would become the revolutionary heroes of a new United States. Today, in museums across America, Copley’s brilliant portraits evoke patriotic fervor and rebellious optimism.

The artist, however, did not share his subjects’ politics. Copley’s nation was Britain; his capital, London. When rebellion sundered Britain’s empire, both kin and calling determined the painter’s allegiances. By the time the United States declared its independence, Copley was in London, and he painted America’s revolution from a far shore, as Britain’s American War. An intimate portrait of the artist and his extraordinary times, Jane Kamensky’s A Revolution in Color masterfully reveals the world of the American Revolution, a place in time riven by divided loyalties and tangled sympathies. But though his ambivalence cost him dearly, the painter’s achievements in Britain and America made him a towering figure of both nations’ artistic legacies.

Jane Kamensky is professor of history at Harvard University and Pforzheimer Foundation Director of the Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Born in Manhattan, Kamensky received her BA (1985) and PhD (1993) from Yale University. Kamensky’s other books include The Exchange Artist (2008), a finalist for the George Washington Book Prize; Governing the Tongue (1997); and the novel Blindspot (2008), jointly written with Jill Lepore. In addition to the New-York Historical Society prize, A Revolution in Color is also the winner of the Annibel Jenkins Biography Prize of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, and a finalist for PEN’s Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography, the Marfield Prize for Arts Writing, and the George Washington Book Prize.

Previous winners include Eric Foner for Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad; 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 comprises New-York Historical’s most committed supporters who are partners in its 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 21, and Saturday, April 22, 2017

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, including an examination of the remarkable life of Louisa Catherine Johnson, wife of John Quincy Adams and the first of America’s foreign-born first ladies, and a conversation about the roots of social, cultural, and economic tensions in American politics, among others.

Participating Speakers
Akhil Reed Amar
Douglas Brinkley
Niall Ferguson
Roger Hertog
Kenneth Jackson
Yuval Levin
John H. Maurer
Andrew Revkin
David E. Sanger
Benno Schmidt
Gillian Tett
Evan Thomas
Louisa Thomas
J.D. Vance

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, New York State, and the nation, 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; WWII & NYC; The Armory Show at 100: Modern Art and Revolution; Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion; Superheroes in Gotham; The Battle of Brooklyn; and The First Jewish Americans: Freedom and Culture in the New World. 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

Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Creative: Tronvig Group