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Biography of Eminent Lincoln Scholar Harold Holzer

Harold Holzer is the author, co-author, or editor of 54 books on Lincoln, the Civil War, and the history of the American media. His book Lincoln and the Power of the Press won the 2015 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize, the Mark Lynton History Prize from the Columbia University School of Journalism, and the Goldsmith Prize from the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School. His latest book is The Presidents vs. the Press: The Endless Battle Between the White House and the Media, From the Founding Fathers to Fake News (2020). The research files from both books are included in an historic gift of Holzer’s complete works to the New York State Library. His first book, The Lincoln Image (written with Mark E. Neely, Jr. and Gabor S. Boritt), appeared in 1984.

Holzer’s donation of his complete works comes on the 30th anniversary of his appointment to the Board of the New York State Archives Partnership Trust, a post to which he was named by Governor Mario Cuomo in 1992, and still holds. Holzer was awarded the NY State Archives & History Award in 2017. He has conducted annual interviews with the other winners of these history awards, in Albany, for more than two decades. Over the years, Holzer has also hosted conferences at the New York State Museum focusing on the Empire State and the Civil War, delivered lectures at several Albany venues, and, at the request of former Governor Andrew Cuomo, helped organize a statewide tour of Lincoln’s Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which has been owned by the New York State Library since 1865. Also at the request of the 52nd governor, Holzer co-directed the project to reinstall the portraits in the Hall of Governors at the State Capitol.

Holzer’s 2012 book, Lincoln: How Abraham Lincoln Ended Slavery in America, was the official young-adult companion book for the Steven Spielberg film Lincoln, for which Holzer served as official script consultant. Holzer also served for three years as the Roger Hertog Fellow at the New-York Historical Society. Earlier, he served as a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Yeshiva University, and has taught at Cardozo Law School.

Holzer has written more than 600 articles in scholarly journals, newspapers, online sites, and popular magazines, published 17 monographs, and contributed chapters or prefaces to 67 additional volumes. Among his many other awards are a second-place Lincoln Prize in 2005 for Lincoln at Cooper Union and book prizes from the Manuscript Society of America, the Civil War Round Table of New York, the New England Society, and the Illinois State Historical Society, along with lifetime achievement awards from the Lincoln Groups of New York, Washington, Peekskill, Kansas City, and Detroit. He has earned honorary degrees from nine colleges and universities and was given the “Order of Lincoln,” the State of Illinois’ highest honor, in 2009.

A member of many history boards and advisory committees nationwide, Holzer serves now as Chairman (and co-founder) of The Lincoln Forum, a national organization with 1,000 members.

Holzer also lectures and produces Lincoln programming throughout the nation. One of his performance pieces, “Lincoln Seen and Heard,” featuring actor Sam Waterston, was staged at the White House (where it was telecast live), the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library, the William J. Clinton Presidential Library, the Library of Congress, and Ford’s Theatre. Holzer appears often on C-SPAN and the History Channel, has served as an on-air commentator on CBS, PBS, NBC, MSNBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC, and has created and performed on-stage Lincoln and Civil War programs with actors Stephen Lang, Richard Dreyfuss, Norm Lewis, André de Shields, F. Murray Abraham, Annette Bening, Kathleen Chalfant, Holly Hunter, Liam Neeson, Chris Noth, Fritz Weaver, Rufus Collins, Blair Brown, Anna Deavere Smith, and Dianne Wiest.

He was also historical advisor and on-camera commentator for CNN’s Emmy-winning 2021 series, Lincoln: Divided We Stand, and will appear in the Doris Kearns Goodwin-hosted Abraham Lincoln documentary series airing this month on the History Channel.

Before joining the Met Museum in 1992, Holzer spent his early career as a journalist (editor of the Manhattan Tribune); as a Congressional and campaign press secretary for Congresswoman Bella S. Abzug; a public affairs specialist for New York Governor Mario M. Cuomo (with whom he co-authored two Lincoln books); and as spokesman for New York’s PBS station, WNET-TV. He and his wife Edith live in Rye, NY, and have two daughters and two grandsons.

Last Updated: February 10, 2022