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Announcement of the Finalists for the 2021 Washington Prize

Seven books selected for the largest awards celebrating the nation's founding era

MOUNT VERNON, VA – Seven books published in 2020 by the country’s most prominent historians have been named finalists for the George Washington Prize. The annual award recognizes the past year’s best works on the nation’s founding era, especially those that have the potential to advance a broad public understanding of early American history.

“Every day we see evidence that Americans care deeply about the history of the founding of the United States,” commented Doug Bradburn, President of George Washington’s Mount Vernon. “Each of these books provides a window into that transformational era, and sheds light as well on the world we are all making together... all worthy finalists in a very competitive field.”

Created by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and Washington College, the $50,000 George Washington Prize is one of the nation’s largest and most notable literary awards.

“At a time when questions about America’s past are so central to discussions of our nation’s present and future, books like these are essential reading,” said Adam Goodheart, Director of Washington College’s Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience. 

Written to engage a wide public audience, the selected books provide a “go-to” reading list for anyone interested in learning more about George Washington, his contemporaries, and the founding of the United States of America.

The 2021 George Washington Prize finalists are (in alphabetical order):

  • Mark Boonshoft, Aristocratic Education and the Making of the American Republic (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press)
  • Vincent Brown, Tacky’s Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War (Cambridge: Harvard University Press)
  • Peter Cozzens, Tecumseh and the Prophet: The Shawnee Brothers Who Defied a Nation (New York: Alfred A. Knopf)
  • Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, The Age of Phyllis (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press)
  • Michael W. McConnell, The President Who Would Not Be King: Executive Power under the Constitution (Princeton: Princeton University Press)
  • Mary Beth Norton, 1774: The Long Year of Revolution (New York: Alfred A. Knopf)
  • William G. Thomas III, A Question of Freedom: The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War (New Haven: Yale University Press)

The prize will be awarded to the 2021 winner at a ceremony held at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home in Virginia, on October 20, 2021.  The ceremony will also recognize past winner, Rick Atkinson, for his book The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777 (Henry Holt), as it was not possible to hold the event in person last year.

More information about the George Washington Prize is available at



The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

Now celebrating its twenty-fifth year, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History was founded in 1994 by Richard Gilder and Lewis E. Lehrman, visionaries and lifelong supporters of American history education. The Institute is the leading nonprofit organization dedicated to K–12 history education while also serving the general public. Its mission is to promote the knowledge and understanding of American history through educational programs and resources.

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is supported through the generosity of individuals, corporations, and foundations. The Institute’s programs have been recognized by awards from the White House, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Organization of American Historians, and the Council of Independent Colleges. Learn more at


George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Since 1860, more than 85 million visitors have made George Washington’s Mount Vernon the most popular historic home in America. Through thought-provoking tours, entertaining events, and stimulating educational programs on the estate and in classrooms across the nation, Mount Vernon strives to preserve George Washington’s place in history as “First in War, First in Peace, and First in the Hearts of His Countrymen.” Mount Vernon is owned and operated by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, America’s oldest national preservation organization, founded in 1853. In 2013, Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association opened the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington, which safeguards original books and manuscripts and serves as a center for research, scholarship, and leadership development. Learn more at


Washington College

Washington College was founded in 1782, the first institution of higher learning established in the new republic. George Washington was not only a principal donor to the college, but also a member of its original governing board. He received an honorary degree from the college in June 1789, two months after assuming the presidency. The college’s Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience explores the American experience in all its diversity and complexity, seeks creative approaches to illuminating the past, and inspires thoughtful conversation informed by history. Learn more at


For more information please contact:

Matt Briney

Vice President, Media & Communications

George Washington's Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon Ladies' Association


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