Johnson wins 2014 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize

Martin Johnson

Johnson book cover

Read more about Dr. Johnson's book in an article in The Miamian magazine!

Associate Professor of History Martin Johnson's book Writing the Gettysburg Address (2013, University Press of Kansas) won the prestigious 2014 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize, which includes a $25,000 prize. The Lincoln Prize jury describes Johnson's book as "a strikingly original, subtly nuanced and beautifully written examination of when and how the Gettysburg Address was written. It has been suggested that this important speech was written on the back of an envelope on the train to Gettysburg. Instead, Johnson proves that the speech was written as part of Lincoln's emotional and spiritual journey to the Gettysburg battlefield and cemetery, and the book's greatest strength may be its ability to bring the reader along on this journey. His argument that the Gettysburg Address did not spring fully formed from Lincoln's head but was the product, in part, of the actual process of writing in Washington and Gettysburg is quite original. Johnson says and does much to clarify how we got the greatest American policical speech."

Here are Professor Johnson's reflections on the Lincoln Prize event, held April 24, 2014 at the Union League Club of New York City:

The presentation event at the Union League Club in New York was an amazing evening. Beforehand the recipients met to talk and take photos in the club library. The six winners of the student essay contest organized by the Gilder Lehrman Institute were there, as were the finalists for the Lincoln Prize. When Steven Spielberg walked in the room grew quiet as everyone took a deep breath, but he put everyone at ease and soon people were talking and laughing as if we socialized with such giants all the time. During our photo shoot, he and I got talking about the floods along the Ohio when he was growing up in Cincinnati, and also the pressures of finishing projects that sometimes require sacrifices. It was also great to hear from the grade shcool and high school students about their essays and their plans for the future.

Johnson and SpeilbergLew Lehrman arrived and was gracious and welcoming; he had missed being elected Governor of New York by 2% in 1982, and since had been busy endowing a wide range of cultural institutions, and, of course, the Gilder Lehrman Institute with his long-time collaborator, Richard Gilder. Then it was time for dinner and I was shocked to walk into a ballroom with upwards of 200 people, many of them buying books for our signatures and otherwise milling about before the first course. The speeches and presentations are a bit of a blur, but both Allen Guelzo and I were given about 5 minutes each to talk about our projects and read a few pages. I made sure to thank the state of Ohio and the department of history for supporting my research! Then Spielberg rose, and in his charming way told us he felt like an interloper in the world of Lincolnists, but he said he was very gratified to think that historians found that he had made a worthwhile contribution. As we all filed out we were given beautiful copies of the Thirteenth Amendment as signed by Abraham Lincoln, a lovely souvenir.