Highest arts honors for David Blight, Peter Eisenman

Yale historian David Blight and architect Peter Eisenman are among four individuals to receive the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ highest honors.
David Blight (left) and Peter Eisenman

David Blight (left) and Peter Eisenman

Yale historian David Blight and architect Peter Eisenman are among four individuals to receive the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ highest honors for excellence in the arts.

Blight, Sterling Professor of American History, and Eisenman, a visiting professor at the School of Architecture, have been awarded the Gold Medals for History and Architecture, respectively. The award is given to those who have achieved eminence in an entire body of work.

In its announcement of the awards, the American Academy of Arts and Letters cited Blight’s six books on slavery, the Civil War, and its aftermath, noting that the historian “established a magisterial record for the struggle for civil rights in the United States.” Blight is also the director of the Gilder Lehrman Center (GLC) for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies.

Eisenman was lauded for designing “exceptional works such as the Wexner Center for the Visual Arts (Ohio State University); the Monument to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Berlin); the City of Culture of Galicia (Spain); and the Aronoff Center for Design and Art (University of Cincinnati).”

Blight won the 2019 Pulitizer Prize for his biography “Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom.” His other honors include the Lincoln Prize, Bancroft Prize, and Frederick Douglass Prize. In addition to his books and numerous articles, he is featured in many documentary films on American history on PBS, the BBC, and other networks. He writes frequently for the popular press, including The Atlantic, The New York Times, and many other journals. Blight maintains a website that includes information about his public lectures and books.

Blight, a member of the Yale faculty since 2003, also holds appointments in African American studies and American studies. His course “The Civil War and Reconstruction Era, 1845-1877” is part of Open Yale Courses.

Eisenman is founder of Eisenman Architects and the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in New York. Known for his engagement with architectural theory and history, his is one of the leading figures of architectural postmodernism. He has taught at the Yale School of Architecture every year since 2001, first as the Louis I. Kahn Visiting Professor until 2009 and then as the Charles Gwathmey Professor in Practice until 2019. His courses include advanced design studios and seminars in formal analysis, during which students examine the proportions and history of Renaissance architecture during the fall semester and in the spring term explore the progress of ideas in Modernist architecture.

The other American Academy of Arts and Letters honorees are writer Richard Powers, author of the 2018 novel “The Overstory,” who received the William Dean Howells Medal, and editor and publisher Bill Henderson, founder of the Pushcart Press, who won the Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts.


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Bess Connolly : elizabeth.connolly@yale.edu,