Scene Last Night: Yale Club Hosts Prize Won by Ex-Merrill Man

Gilder Lehrman Institute
Lois Chiles and Richard Gilder, a co-founder of the Gilder Lehrman Institute and partner, Gilder Gagnon Howe & Co. Photographer: Amanda Gordon

Yale alumni Lewis Lehrman, chairman of Ten Squared Management LLC, and Richard Gilder, partner at Gilder Gagnon Howe & Co., gathered with other history fans Thursday night at the Yale Club of New York City.

The occasion marked the awarding of the $25,000 Frederick Douglass Book Prize for nonfiction on slavery. It was named for the self-educated abolitionist, whose great-great-great-grandson, Kenneth Morris, was present.

Enjoying the filet mignon and white chocolate mousse were Joseph McNay, chairman of Essex Investment Management Co., Walter Evans, a manuscript collector who owns several Douglass family scrapbooks, historian Eric Foner and a lot of students from the Frederick Douglass Academy.

Lehrman told two students about Alexander Hamilton. “I started out as a teacher,” he said to Bloomberg News.

“I read all the finalists,” Gilder said.

The two men are the founders and funders of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University, which sponsor the prize.

“Not only is it a mouthful to spit out all those greats, but it makes me feel far removed,” said Morris, president of the Frederick Douglass Family foundation, in after-dinner remarks. “It’s like trying to picture a billion dollars with all those zeroes.”

Prizes went to “In the Shadow of Slavery: Africa’s Botanical Legacy in the Atlantic World” by Judith A. Carney and Richard Nicholas Rosomoff, and “Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery” by Siddharth Kara, a former Merrill Lynch investment banker.

Foner, a professor at Columbia University, was recently named the 2011 winner of the Gilder Lehrman Institute’s Lincoln Prize for his book “The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery.”

(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

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