Eric Foner is the DeWitt Clinton Professor Emeritus of History at Columbia University, specializing in the Civil War and Reconstruction, slavery, and nineteenth-century America. He received his B.A. in History from Columbia College in 1963, his B.A. First Class from Oriel College, Oxford University, in 1965, and his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1969.
Foner is one of only two persons to serve as President of the Organization of American Historians (1993-94), American Historical Association (2000), and Society of American Historians (2006). He has also been the curator of several museum exhibitions, including the prize-winning “A House Divided: America in the Age of Lincoln,” at the Chicago Historical Society, and “America’s Reconstruction: People and Politics After the Civil War,” which opened at the Virginia Historical Society in 1995. He is an elected Fellow of the British Academy, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society.
Foner’s research has concentrated on the intersections of intellectual, political, and social history, and on the history of American race relations. His book The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery won the Pulitzer, Bancroft, and Lincoln prizes for 2011. His other publications include Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad; Our Lincoln: New Perspectives on Lincoln and His World; Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction; Voices of Freedom: A Documentary History; Give Me Liberty! An American History; Who Owns History? Rethinking the Past in a Changing World; The Story of American Freedom; America’s Reconstruction: People and Politics after the Civil War; Thomas Paine; Freedom’s Lawmakers: A Directory of Black Officeholders During Reconstruction; A House Divided: America in the Age of Lincoln; A Short History of Reconstruction; Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877; Nothing But Freedom: Emancipation and Its Legacy; Politics and Ideology in the Age of the Civil War; Tom Paine and Revolutionary America; Nat Turner; America’s Black Past: A Reader in Afro-American History; Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party; and Before the Civil War.
Foner’s awards include the John Jay Award for Distinguished Professional Achievement, Columbia College Alumni Association (2007); the Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching, Columbia University (2006); the Kidger Award for Teaching and Scholarly Excellence, New England History Teachers Association (2006); the Silver Gavel Award, American Bar Association (2005); the Class of 2006 Distinguished Professor Award (2004); and Scholar of the Year, N.Y. Council for the Humanities (1995). In 2014, Foner was awarded the Gold Medal by the National Institute of Social Sciences. In 2020 he received the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Lifetime Achievement, which honors literature that confronts racism and explores diversity, as well as the Roy Rosenzweig Distinguished Service Award from the Organization of American Historians.
Foner retired from teaching in 2018, but his Columbia University course on The Civil War and Reconstruction was made available online for free via ColumbiaX and EdX.