New York Academy of History Awards Lehman Prize to Eric K. Washington

Editor's note:

This article is adapted from an announcement shared by Bundles Scholar Eric K. Washington.

July 29, 2020

The New York Academy of History has chosen A'Lelia Bundles Community Scholar Eric K. Washington's book, Boss of the Grips: The Life of James H. Williams and the Red Caps of Grand Central Terminal, as one of two winners of the 2020 Herbert H. Lehman Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in New York History. 

“We were unanimous in selecting your book,” Tom Lewis, chair of the NYAH judging panel, informed the author by email. “We were impressed by the way you presented a sensitive and detailed life of James Williams, in the context of the city’s emerging African American middle class.” The judging panel selected Boss of the Grips from more than sixty submissions. The author will receive an honorarium of $1,000 and at the eventual gala dinner, a specially minted medal of Governor Lehman inscribed with his name.

Named for the former New York State governor and senator, the Lehman Prize is awarded for Distinguished Scholarship, honoring books drawn from New York State history, as well as the category of Distinguished Service, honoring individuals who have made various contributions in fostering knowledge of New York.

Earlier this year, Washington's Boss of the Grips also received special recognition as a Brendan Gill Prize Finalist from the Municipal Art Society. The book’s other citations include being named among the Ten Best Biographies of 2019 by Open Letters Review; and honored as one of the Ten Favorite Books of 2019 by The Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast.

Due to COVID-19, the awards presentation dinner planned for April is postponed indefinitely. “We had delayed notifying recipients about the prize in the hope that we could specify a date, but that is not possible,” Kenneth T. Jackson, NYAH President and Professor Emeritus at Columbia University, disclosed in a separate email about the announcement. He expressed optimism about rescheduling the gala dinner in 2021.

“We look forward to seeing you at the dinner, whenever that happens,” Professor Jackson added. “For now, accept our warm congratulations on your fine scholarship.”

A full list of Lehman Prize honorees for this and past years is available on the New York Academy of History website.