Sean Wilentz Receives Behrman Award for the Humanities

May 06, 2019
Howard T. Behrman Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities

Princeton professors David Bellos and Sean Wilentz have received the University’s Howard T. Behrman Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities.

Wilentz, the George Henry Davis 1886 Professor of American History, joined the Princeton faculty in 1979. He studies U.S. political and social history.

Wilentz is the author of several books, including “The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln” (2005), which was awarded the Bancroft Prize. Other books include “Chants Democratic: New York City and the Rise of the American Working Class, 1788-1850” (1984), for which he received the Albert J. Beveridge Award and the Frederick Jackson Turner Award; “The Age of Reagan: A History, 1974-2008” (2008), a reconsideration of U.S. politics since the Watergate affair; “Bob Dylan in America” (2010), an examination of Dylan’s place in American cultural history; and “The Politicians and the Egalitarians: The Hidden History of American Politics” (2016), a study of the connections between partisanship and egalitarianism in U.S. political history. His most recent book is “No Property in Man: Slavery and Antislavery at the Nation’s Founding” (2018), and he is currently at work on “The Triumph of American Antislavery.”

His writings on music have earned him two Grammy nominations and two Deems Taylor-ASCAP awards.

Wilentz mainly teaches courses on U.S. history, focusing on the 19th century. He has also taught courses on American literature and 20th-century American culture and politics.

In nominating Wilentz for the Behrman Award, a colleague wrote: “His undergraduate and graduate courses ... have been routinely among the highest rated. His mentorship and support of younger historians in the department (co-teaching often to be energized by the give-and-take of the department’s intellectual life) is exemplary.”

The colleague also wrote: “For Wilentz, history is a vital and far-reaching undertaking — an opportunity to examine, across multiple registers, the nation’s foundational ideals and institutions (slavery, the Constitution, democracy, equality, the Presidency), and our society’s ever-unfolding questions about class, culture and national identity. He is … a towering figure; his expertise extends as broadly, and with as much influence, as any other distinguished humanities scholar I could name.”

In 2018-19, Wilentz is serving as an Old Dominion Research Professor with the Humanities Council.