Press Release: Graduate Center Historian James Oakes Wins 2008 Lincoln Prize for The Radical and the Republican

The Lincoln Prize, one of the most generous and prestigious awards in the field of American History, will be awarded to James Oakes, a professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.  Oakes, who wins the prize for his book The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics (W. W. Norton), will share the 2008 honor with historian and diplomat Elizabeth Brown Pryor for Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters (Viking).  

Each author will receive a $20,000 cash award along with a bronze cast of Augustus St. Gaudens’ larger-than-life portrait sculpture of Abraham Lincoln. Previous winners of the Lincoln Prize include Doris Kearns Goodwin for Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln; John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger for Runaway Slaves; and Ken Burns for The Civil War; among other distinguished historians.

The Lincoln Prize jury commended Professor Oakes for using “with great effectiveness a new comparative framework to analyze the careers of the wartime President and the nation’s most important black leader.”  The jury particularly cited the author’s “powerful” narrative, designed for historians as well as general readers,” which “flows seamlessly…sometimes with dramatic effect.”    

Announcement of the Lincoln Prize winners for the year’s best books on Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War was made by the Lincoln & Soldiers Institute at Gettysburg College, which administers the yearly awards.  The $50,000 annual prize was co-founded and endowed by business leaders and philanthropists Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman, the principals of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in New York.  

James Oakes is Professor of History and Humanities Chair at the Graduate Center.  His previous books include The Ruling Race: A History of American Slaveholders and Slavery and Freedom: An Interpretation of the Old South.  He earned his Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, and has written many scholarly articles, encyclopedia entries, and book chapters.  

The Lincoln Prize will be formally awarded at a dinner at the Yale Club in New York on Tuesday, April 1.

The Graduate Center is the doctorate-granting institution of the City University of New York (CUNY). An internationally recognized center for advanced studies and a national model for public doctoral education, the school offers more than thirty doctoral programs, as well as a number of master’s programs. Many of its faculty members are among the world’s leading scholars in their respective fields, and its alumni hold major positions in industry and government, as well as in academia. The Graduate Center is also home to twenty-nine interdisciplinary research centers and institutes focused on areas of compelling social, civic, cultural, and scientific concerns.  Located in a landmark Fifth Avenue building, the Graduate Center has become a vital part of New York City’s intellectual and cultural life with its extensive array of public lectures, exhibitions, concerts, and theatrical events.  Further information on the Graduate Center and its programs can be found at

Submitted on: FEB 1, 2008

Category: Press Room