HAROLD HOLZER, winner of The 2015 Gilder-Lehrman Lincoln Prize, 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 served for six years (2010–2016) as Chairman of The Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation. For the previous 10 years he co-chaired the U. S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission (ALBC), appointed by President Clinton. President Bush 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 Obama. He is now chairman of The Lincoln Forum.
Books and Articles
Holzer, who serves as The Jonathan F. Fanton Director of Hunter College's Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute, has authored, co-authored or edited 55 books. His latest major 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) which the New York Times called "a panoramic survey" and the Washington Post hailed as "a lively, deeply researched story" filled with "colorful detail." His previous book was the award-winning Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public Opinion, which won the Gilder-Lehrman Lincoln Prize, as well as The Mark Lynton History Prize from the Columbia University School of Journalism, The Hazel-Dicken Garcia Award, and the 2016 Goldsmith Book Prize from the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard's Kennedy School. In September 2017, Holzer received the Empire State Archives and History Award from the New York State Archives Partnership Trust. That November 19, he was the keynote speaker at the Gettysburg National Soldiers' Cemetery on the 154th anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Earlier that year, Holzer served as Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University in New York.
Holzer's recent titles include A Just and Generous Nation: Abraham Lincoln and the Fight for American Opportunity (co-authored with Norton Garfinkle); President Lincoln Assassinated!!, a Library of America Anthology of public and private responses to Lincoln's death; Exploring Lincoln and 1865, two co-edited collections of scholarly essays by leading historians. Holzer also issued the 2014 book The Civil War in 50 Objects, written for The New-York Historical Society, for which he served for three years, 2013–2015, as Roger Hertog Fellow. His other recent volumes include Lincoln: How Abraham Lincoln Ended Slavery in America, the official young adult companion book to the Steven Spielberg film, for which he served as historical advisor.
The Library Journal “highly recommended” his 2008 book, Lincoln President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860-1861 and Doris Kearns Goodwin called it a "stunningly original work that casts completely new light on the most turbulent and critical presidential transition in American history." His 2004 book Lincoln At Cooper Union: The Speech That Made Abraham Lincoln President won a second-place 2005 Lincoln Prize and several additional awards.
In addition, Holzer has written more than 600 articles and reviews for both popular magazines and scholarly journals, including Smithsonian, Life Magazine, American Heritage (where he served as a Contributing Editor), Civil War Times, American History Illustrated, North & South, Blue & Gray, The Wall Street Journal,The Washington Post, The Dallas Morning News, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times Book Review and Op-Ed pages of The New York Daily News and The Los Angeles Times. His regular column, "Cease Fire," appeared in America's Civil War, and he contributed regularly to the Civil War websites of The New York Times and Washington Post.
Holzer has also written chapters to more than 60 books as well as a number of pamphlets and monographs on Lincoln, including Lincoln and The Jews (2002), and Standing Tall: The Heroic Image of Abraham Lincoln (2005). And Holzer has contributed chapters and forewords to 51 additional books, including Lincoln and His Contemporaries (1999), The Lincoln Enigma (2001), Our Lincoln (2008), and The Mary Lincoln Enigma (2012). In 2004, he was the historical advisor and contributor to the book Why Lincoln Matters by the late Mario M. Cuomo. In 2022, Holzer donated his papers and research files—amassed over his 45-year writing career—to the New York State Library in Albany.
Harold and Craig Symonds sign copies of "The New York Times Complete Civil War" in 2010.
Appearances and Lectures
A frequent guest on radio and television, Holzer has appeared on C-SPAN 200 times, including the programs Washington Journal, In Depth, and Q&A as well as on the 2008 special series, The White House and on C-SPAN3 (American History TV) and several C-SPAN specials devoted to The Civil War Sesquicentennial (2010–2015). He also appeared on the 2005 History Channel special Lincoln; on that network's History Center series, on American Heritage Presents the Lincoln Assassination (1995), and the specials Assassins: John Wilkes Booth, Investigating History: Lincoln-Man vs. Myth, and the 12-part 2018 Fox-TV series Legends and Lies: The Civil War.
In 2021 he appeared on the CNN special Lincoln: Divided We Stand (for which he served as chief historical consultant); and in 2022 on The History Channel special, Abraham Lincoln, produced by Doris Kearns Goodwin. He has appeared on The Today Show, The Charlie Rose Show, Bill Moyers' Journal, The Lou Dobbs Show, CNBC, CNN, Fox News, The PBS News Hour, CBS Sunday Morning, Bloomberg News, and the CBS Evening News. He appeared on the C-SPAN American Writers special on Abraham Lincoln, and was also seen on C-SPAN in broadcasts of his stage presentations Lincoln Seen and Heard with Sam Waterston and Grant Seen and Heard with Richard Dreyfuss. Holzer's 1993 appearance on C-SPAN's Booknotes series inspired the 1994 C-SPAN recreations of the Lincoln-Douglas debates in Illinois, for which Holzer served as historical consultant and on-air commentator. C-SPAN also broadcast the 2004 on-site re-creation of The Cooper Union address, featuring Holzer and Waterston, and in February 2005 a special Lincoln's Birthday-eve performance of Lincoln Seen and Heard live from the White House, hosted by President and Mrs. George W. Bush.
Holzer also twice appeared on the award-winning PBS discussion show Open Mind and again on C-SPAN in the performance piece The Lincoln Family Album starring Liam Neeson and Holly Hunter, broadcast from the Library of Congress in Washington. He also appeared to introduce the C-SPAN broadcast of a Cooper Union dialogue In the Lincoln Tradition. His program, "The Real Lincoln-Douglass Debates," featuring actors Stephen Lang and Norm Lewis, was performed twice at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and aired on C-SPAN. His "Lincoln's Shakespeare," featuring such actors as Mr. Lang, Mr. Waterston, John Douglas Thompson, Kathleen Chalfant, the late Fritz Weaver, Blair Brown, Annette Benning, and Chris Noth, has been performed at several venues, including the Century Club in New York, the Berkshire Playhouse in Massachusetts, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and "Shakespeare in the Park" in New York.
For the 2009 Lincoln bicentennial, Holzer appeared on a number of national television specials, including Q&A with Brian Lamb from Washington’s Willard Hotel;
Bill Moyer's Journal on PBS, with Sam Waterston in a new reading entitled “Lincoln In American Memory,” and in the documentaries
Looking For Lincoln (PBS), Stealing Lincoln’s Body (History Channel), and Lincoln: American Mastermind (National Geographic Television).
Bill Moyers, Sam Waterston and Harold at the taping for "Bill Moyers Journal" on 3/16/09 at the PBS studios in New York.
Holzer also lectures widely before Civil War and Lincoln groups and at museums, colleges, and historical societies conferences throughout the country. Among the more than 260 different talks he has given across America on land as well as on the nation's rivers, Holzer has twice delivered the R. Gerald McMurtry Lecture at the Lincoln Museum (now the Allen County Library) in Fort Wayne, along with the Lincoln Shrine Lecture in Redlands, California, the Frank and Virginia Williams Lecture at LSU/Shreveport, and the inaugural Frank and Virginia Williams Lecture at The Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library at Mississippi State University in Starkville. In 2004, he delivered the Fortenbaugh Lecture at Gettysburg College and the second NEH "Heroes of History" lecture at Ford's Theatre in Washington. In 2005 and again in 2017, he was a featured speaker at ceremonies marking the anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address at the Soldier's Cemetery in Gettysburg, PA. His Lincoln Bicentennial year lectures took him from Oxford, England to Boise, Idaho, and some 25 major venues in between, including as American Pictures Distinguished Lecturer at The Smithsonian Institution in April 2009. In 2011, he delivered the prestigious Nathan I. Huggins Lectures at Harvard University's W.E.B. Du Bois Center for African and African American Research. During the Civil War sesquicentennial, he lectured at such venues as Ford's Theatre (including the 150th anniversary of the Lincoln Assassination), The National Archives, President Lincoln's Cottage, The Albany Institute of History and Art, Dartmouth College, Centre College, Long Island University, The Gettysburg National Military Park, The American Antiquarian Society, History Miami, The State Museum of Pennsylvania, Mary Washington College, the Park Avenue Armory, The White House Historical Association, Temple University, The U.S. Capitol, The Newseum, The National Portrait Gallery, and in an ongoing series of Civil War conversations at The New-York Historical Society, where he moderates programs on Civil War history. He appeared in programs with Tony Kushner, award-winning screenwriter of Spielberg's Lincoln, at such venues as The Union League of Chicago, The Civil War Round Table and Lincoln Group of New York, The Museum of The Moving Image, The New-York Historical Society, and Roosevelt House at Hunter College, his home base since 2015.
He has also organized several Lincoln symposia and curated six museum exhibitions, notably the award-winning 1999 Lincoln Museum exhibit "Lincoln From Life." He served as lead historian for several exhibitions and symposia at the New York State Museum in Albany, including State of the Union: New York and the Civil War.
Holzer served as chief historian for a number of other acclaimed museum exhibitions, including The Lincoln Image (1984-85), which appeared at The Lincoln Museum, Gettysburg College Library, and other venues; The Confederate Image (The Lincoln Museum, Gettysburg College), Lincoln From Life (The Lincoln Museum), Lincoln and New York at the New-York Historical Society, and the 2015 show, Lincoln and the Jews at the New-York Historical Society.
For the 2008 Presidential campaign he helped organize and debut a new “Lincoln Series” of modern political debates and dialogues in the Lincoln tradition at New York’s Cooper Union, the first of which featured the late Mario Cuomo, Newt Gingrich, and the late Tim Russert, and later presented Senator John Edwards, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Barack Obama. In 2012 Holzer advised New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on the rehabilitation and reinstallation of the historic but neglected Hall of Governors portrait gallery at the New York State Capitol and co-organized a statewide sesquicentennial tour of Lincoln's handwritten 1862 Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. In 2012, Governor Cuomo appointed him co-chair of the N.Y. State "Pathways Through History" initiative. He has also served as a member of the New York City World War I Commission.
Much honored for his work, Holzer won a second-place Lincoln Prize for his Cooper Union book in 2005, and won the prestigious top prize in 2015, along with The Mark Lynton History Prize, one of The J. Anthony Lukas awards given annually by Columbia University; the Mark Lynton Prize for best book from The Shorenstein Center at Harvard University's Kennedy School; and the Hazel Dicken-Garcia Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Journalism. He has seven times won the Barondess Lincoln Award of the Civil War Round Table of New York (1984, 1990, 1993, 2005, 2009, 2015); plus honorable mentions in 1999 for the exhibition Lincoln from Life and again in 2010 for the exhibition "Lincoln and New York". He has also received the Diploma of Honor from Lincoln Memorial University (1988); won the Award of Achievement from the Lincoln Group of New York six times (1988, 1993 2004, 2009, 2010, and 2015); received a 1988 George Washington Medal from the Freedom Foundation; a 1989 Writer of Distinction Award from the International Reading Association; and a 1993 Award of Superior Achievement from the Illinois State Historical Society along with the special bicentennial "Order of Lincoln" award, the highest honor bestowed by the State of Illinois.
In 1996 he won the first annual
award from the Manuscript Society of America for his use of original
manuscripts in Dear Mr. Lincoln. The Union Image won the 2000 Newman Book Award
of the American Historical Print Collectors
Society. In 2002 Holzer received the coveted Nevins-Freeman Award of The Civil War Round
Table of Chicago, and his young reader's book, The President is Shot! won several awards. Lincoln President-Elect was named a best book of 2008 by the Illinois State Historical Society.
Holzer has earned honorary degrees from Lincoln Memorial University, Lincoln College (2002), Illinois College and The University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth (2006). He was honored in 2009 by both Bard College and Queens College. In 2011 he earned honorary degrees from both Culver-Stockton College in Missouri and Highland College in Freeport, Illinois, and in 2011 from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky.
His book Abraham Lincoln, The Writer (2000) was named to both the Children’s Literature Choice List, and the Bank Street "Best Children’s Books of the Year, and his most recent young reader’s history, "Father Abraham," has won a number of awards, including the first James "Bud" Robertson Award for Best Young Readers’ Book from The Civil War Round Table of New York.
Holzer has earned lifetime achievement awards from The Lincoln Groups of The District of Columbia and Peekskill, NY, and The Civil War Round Table of Chicago (The Nevins-Freeman Award), among others. In 2015 he won The Harry S. Truman Award from The Civil War Round Table of Kansas City (a group co-founded by the ex-President in the 1950s).
Harold poses with his grandson Charles after receiving the National Humanities Medal at the White House in 2008.
Professional and Community Involvement
Holzer served from 2015–2021 as a Trustee of The Metropolitan Museum of Art (representing NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer), and on the board of The Bella Abzug Leadership Institute. From 1991–1996, Holzer served as president of the Lincoln Group of New York, and has served on its executive committee for more than 30 years. He also served on the board of directors of the Abraham Lincoln Association and New York's Civil War Round Table, and on the editorial advisory boards of The Lincoln Herald, American Heritage, and Civil War Times.
Holzer serves as Chairman of The Lincoln Forum, the national organization for historians and enthusiasts that meets annually at Gettysburg. He was a co-founder of the group, served for more than two decades as its vice-chairman, and a year as co-chair before his election as chair in 2018. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Ulysses S. Grant Association. He was also a member of the Research Advisory Group for the President Lincoln and Soldiers' Home National Monument in Washington, and of the board of historical advisors of the Mariners' Museum's U.S.S. Monitor Center in Newport News, Virginia; the Tredegar National Civil War Center Foundation in Richmond; The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia; The Ford's Theatre National Historic Site, including its new Education Center; The Lincoln Museum at Lincoln College in Lincoln, Illinois, The Papers of Abraham Lincoln project in Springfield, Illinois, and the Gettysburg National Military Park Visitor Center. At the U.S. Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, he helped plan and organize programs and celebrations to mark Lincoln's 200th birthday. During his chairmanship of the ALBF, The Foundation distributed nearly $600,000 to some 60 projects and organizations nationwide.
In February 2006, Holzer was also named co-chairman of The New York State Lincoln Bicentennial Commission by Governor George E. Pataki. A former member of the New York State Council on the Humanities, Holzer was appointed by Gov. Mario Cuomo to the New York State Archives Preservation Trust Board in 1994, was re-appointed by Gov. Pataki in 1999, again by then-New York State Senate Minority Leader David Paterson in 2004, and then by the State Board of Regents in 2008. In this ongoing role he co-organized and served as lead historian for a Union Preserved Civil War symposium in Albany, co-edited two Archives-sponsored books on New York and The Civil War, hosted events featuring actor Richard Dreyfuss, C-SPAN founder Brian Lamb, actor Sam Waterston, and historians Doris Kearns Goodwin, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Robert Caro, Ken Burns, David McCullough, and Ron Chernow; and co-organized a 2012 Lincoln Symposium at the Albany Law School.
Educated at the Queens College of City University of New York, Holzer began his career as a newspaper reporter and, later, editor of the New York weekly The Manhattan Tribune. He then served as press secretary to Congresswoman Bella S. Abzug (on Capitol Hill and in her campaigns for the U.S. Senate and mayor of New York), press secretary to 1977 mayoral candidate Mario Cuomo, a government speechwriter for New York City Mayor Abraham D. Beame, and for six years as public affairs director for the PBS flagship station WNET. From 1984 through 1992 he served as Special Counselor to the Director of Economic Development and executive vice president of The New York State Urban Development Corporation in the administration of Governor Mario Cuomo. He became Director of Roosevelt House in September 2015.
After 23 years of service, Holzer retired from his post as Senior Vice President for Public Affairs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2015. He first joined the institution as Chief Communications Officer in 1992, was named vice president in 1996 and senior vice president in 2005. His responsibilities included Government Affairs, Multi-Cultural Audience Development, Admissions, and Visitor Services. He joined Roosevelt House that September, where he oversees academic programs for Hunter College undergraduates in public policy and human rights, and hosts public programs on history and current events.
Holzer lives in New York with his wife of 51 years, Edith Holzer, retired director of public affairs for the New York State Council of Child Caring Agencies. The Holzers have two daughters: Meg, an attorney who attended Yale University and NYU Law School, and Remy Kirsch, a Harvard graduate with a Masters in Film Studies from NYU who is an independent film historian; she is married to author and book critic Adam Kirsch. The Holzers have two grandsons, Charles, 15, and Leo, 3. Listen to Charles' theater podcasts on Backstage Babble.
Harold and Edith at the gala reception for Lincoln and New York at the New-York Historical Society.
The Presidents vs. The Press (2020)
Monument Man (2019)
The Annotated Lincoln (2016)
A Just and Generous Nation (2015)
President Lincoln Assassinated!! (2015)
Exploring Lincoln (2015)
Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public MOpinion (2014)
The Civil War in 50 Objects (2013)
1863: Lincoln’s Pivotal Year (2013)
Lincoln: How Abraham Lincoln Ended Slavery
Min America (2013)
Emancipating Lincoln: The Proclamation in Text,
MContext, and Memory (2012)
For a complete list of books and articles, as well as details on the titles listed above, see here.
Selected AWARDS AND HONORS
New England Society Book Prize for Monument Man (2020)
New York State Archives + History Award (2017)
Goldsmith Book Prize (2016)
Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize (2015)
Mark Lynton History Prize (2015)
Hazel Dicken-Garcia Award (2015)
Harry S. Truman Award, Kansas City Civil War Round MTable (2015)
Barondess Award of the Civil War Round Table of New
MYork (1984, 1990, 1993, 2005, 2009, 2015; plus
Mhonorable mentions in 1999 for the exhibition "Lincoln
Mfrom Life" and 2010 for exhibition "Lincoln and
Award of Achievement from the Lincoln Group of New
MYork four times (1988, 1993, 2004, and 2015);
M honorable mention in 2010 for "Lincoln From Life"
National Humanities Medal (2008)
Bell I. Wiley Award from The Civil War Round Table
Mof New York (2008)
Honorary degrees from Illinois College and University of
MMassachusetts at Dartmouth (2006)
The Lincoln Group of The District of Columbia's annual
Maward of achievement (2006)
Second-Place Lincoln Prize (2005)
Nevins-Freeman Award of The Civil War Round Table
Mof Chicago (2002)
Newman Book Award of the American Historical Print
MCollectors Society for The Union Image (2000)
First annual award from the Manuscript Society of
MAmerica for his use of original manuscripts in
MDear Mr. Lincoln (1996)
Honorary doctorate in humane letters from Lincoln
For a complete list of credits, including bibliography, lectures, exhibitions, appearances, and awards, see here. (PDF)