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Lincoln and West Virginia Statehood: The "Other" Big News of January 1, 1863

September 24, 2018
Mountainlair Ballrooms
7:30 p.m.

On the same day as Abraham Lincoln issued the final Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863, West Virginia became the newest state in the divided Union. In the end, Lincoln agonized more over the separation of Virginia than he did about his executive order separating enslaved people from their “masters,” although both decisions plagued him for weeks and aroused intense discussion in the press. Holzer will explore why this was so — and how Lincoln asked and answered his own questions on both these consequential issues, and thereby transformed the Civil War.

Co-sponsored by the West Virginia Mason-Dixon Civil War Round Table

HAROLD HOLZERwinner 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, 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 co-chairman of the Lincoln Forum.

Educated at the Queens College of City University of New York, Holzer began his career as a newspaper reporter and later became 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 served 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 45 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 master’s in film studies from NYU who is an independent film historian; she is married to author and book critic Adam Kirsch of Columbia University. The Holzers have one grandson, Charles Ezra Kirsch, age 9. See Charles’ theater reviews on

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