NEH grant to Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College

Knox College Awarded $850,000 from National Endowment for the Humanities

Challenge grant to support renowned Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College

September 24, 2009

Knox College has been awarded a "We the People" challenge grant of $850,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to support the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College. The Center, co-directed by renowned scholars and long-time members of the Knox faculty Rodney O. Davis and Douglas L. Wilson, promotes the study of the life and work of Abraham Lincoln through research, publications, public events, and classroom instruction.

The grant to Knox, awarded under the NEH's "We the People" challenge grant program, is the third-largest among this year's 184 NEH grants and the largest to any educational institution in the nation. Grants totaling $29 million were announced by the "We the People" program, which supports teaching and study of American history.

Grant monies, along with $2.5 million in matching funds to be raised by Knox over the next five years, will establish a permanent endowment for the Lincoln Studies Center, providing long-term support of the directorship of the Center -- intended as a position of distinction for a major scholar in Lincoln studies -- and enabling program enhancements, including the addition of a new staff position and the dissemination of primary resources pertaining to Lincoln and Lincoln scholarship to scholars, students, and the general public.

"This grant to Knox is recognition of the enduring importance of the work that has been done by our scholars Rodney Davis and Douglas Wilson," said Lawrence B. Breitborde, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college. "It also acknowledges Knox's great potential for future projects -- research, publications, public events and classroom instruction."

Old Main - Knox CollegeThe Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College -- located in Knox College's Old Main, site of the fifth Lincoln-Douglas Debate -- was established in 1998 and has since produced some of the most important Lincoln-related scholarship of recent years. The Center's first major accomplishment was working jointly with the Library of Congress to transcribe and annotate the Abraham Lincoln Papers on the Library's website, a resource that has been widely praised and is now considered an indispensable tool for research on Abraham Lincoln or the Civil War. The University of Illinois Press established the Knox College Lincoln Studies Center Monograph Series in 2005 and has published two of the five books in the series to date.

The Center's board of advisors is comprised of famed Lincoln scholars, including Michael Burlingame of Connecticut College, William C. Harris of North Carolina State University, James M. McPherson of Princeton University, Edna Greene Medford of Howard University, Matthew Pinsker of Dickinson College, Gerald J. Prokopowicz of East Carolina University, John R. Sellers from the Library of Congress, and Ronald C. White, Jr. of the San Francisco Theological Seminary.

Douglas Wilson, Rodney DavisRodney O. Davis and Douglas L. Wilson, the Center's first co-directors, have been studying Lincoln collaboratively since the late 1980s. Their major work, "Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews and Statements about Abraham Lincoln," was published in November 1997 by University of Illinois Press and hailed as "a monumental achievement of scholarship" by historian James McPherson. Other books by Davis and Wilson include "The Lincoln-Douglas Debates: The Lincoln Studies Center Edition," the first critical edition and the most complete record ever assembled of the landmark Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858, published in 2008 by the University of Illinois Press, and "Herndon's Lincoln," the classic Lincoln biography by his law partner, William H. Herndon, published in 2006 by the University of Illinois Press.

In addition to their joint scholarship, Davis is a prize-winning essayist, specializing in 19th century American history, and is considered a leading authority on the history of Illinois. Wilson has published multiple books on Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln and has twice been awarded the prestigious Lincoln Prize, bestowed in recognition of the "year's best book on Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War." Wilson received the award in 1999 for "Honor's Voice: The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln" and in 2007 for "Lincoln's Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words," both published by Alfred A. Knopf. Wilson is currently lecturing on Lincoln in China, as part of a five-city speaking program sponsored by the United States Department of State.

Founded in 1837, Knox is a national liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, with students from 47 states and 48 nations. Knox's 'Old Main' is a National Historic Landmark and the only building remaining from the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates.