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Jay Winik

Bestselling Author and American Historian; Known for "April 1865: The Month That Saved America"

Bestselling Author and American Historian; Known for "April 1865: The Month That Saved America"

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Chevy Chase, MD, USA
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Jay Winik Biography

Jay Winik, one of the nation's leading historians, is renowned for his gifted and creative approaches to history. He is the author of The New York Times and #1 bestseller April 1865 (2001), which received wide international acclaim and became an award-wining documentary on the History Channel, watched by 50 million viewers.

His prior book to 1944: FDR and the Year That Changed History, is The Great Upheaval: America and the Birth of the Modern World 1788-1800 (HarperCollins, 2007), which was a New York Times bestseller and a Best Book of the Year for both USA Today and the Christian Science Monitor, as well as a main selection of the Book of the Month club and the History Book club. In the UK it was also selected for the prestigious Financial Times list of best books of the year. Reviewed separately by three distinguished Pulitzer Prize winners, David Shribman in The Wall Street Journal hailed it as a “remarkable work,” Joseph Ellis in the New York Times praised Winik as a “born storyteller,” while in the New York Review of Books, Gordon Wood, the dean of early American historians, called the book “superb.”

His award-winning history, April 1865: The Month That Saved America (HarperCollins, 2001), about the end of the Civil War, was a New York Times and number #1 national bestseller, and received worldwide attention. One of those rare books to be considered an instant classic, it was chosen by the New York Public Library for its prestigious, "Books to Remember," awarded to the year’s most "exceptional fiction and nonfiction titles," and was released as part of HarperCollins’s Modern Classics PS series. Since its publication, it has uniquely spawned a new genre of books in the same vein. It was also a New York Times “New and Noteworthy” book, an Amazon top ten in history, and the recipient of the first Walt Whitman Civil War Roundtable Award in 2002. April 1865 received numerous rave reviews, including in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Boston Globe. It was even an answer on the popular game show Jeopardy; in 2012, it inspired a major Civil War exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington DC, it was a principal inspiration for Robert Redford’s acclaimed movie, The Conspirators, and it has also been turned into a song.

In April 2003, “April 1865” premiered as a critically acclaimed and Emmy award-nominated two hour feature documentary special on the History Channel, with a special preview at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Profiled on the cover of Washington Post TV Guide, the award winning special has been watched by some 50 million people. Winik is also a regular contributor for history to the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

As an historian, Winik has uniquely stood at the nexus of history and public policy. President Bill Clinton, an avid fan, has given copies of April 1865 as gifts and discussed Lincoln at length with Winik, while President George W. Bush carried April 1865 with him to Camp David following the 9/11 attacks and in 2008 had a one-on-one lunch with Winik. The Wall Street Journal chose April 1865 as the first book that President Obama should read for his second term. On the eve of the bombing campaign against Afghanistan, Vice President Cheney had Winik to dinner to discuss lessons from history for the war on terror, and Winik has discussed both his works at length with Majority Leader Harry Reid. On numerous occasions he has sat down to discuss history with cabinet members, such as the Secretary of State, as well as leading senators and White House officials like Gen. James Jones. Winik and April 1865 have been the subject of major media features around the world, from the front page of the Times of London to the "Today Show" in Australia, as well as in most major American publications, including the New York Times, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek, the New Yorker, US News and World Report, The Economist, and the Washington Post. Winik’s readers and fans include a wide cross section of America, such as George Lucas, the actress Jamie Lee Curtis and actor Michael Douglas, Gen. David Petraeus (the architect of the surge), Quincy Jones, President George H. W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and former presidential aspirants, including Evan Bayh and Mitt Romney, Majority Leader Harry Reid, as well as Senators Mitch McConnell, Jon Kyl, Joe Lieberman, and Tom Daschle, Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man, Queen Noor, Joan Rivers, Chief Justice Roberts, Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Stephen Breyer, and Antonin Scalia, Bob Woodward, Rose Styron, the late Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, Chris Wallace, Secretary of State Condi Rice, Atty. General Eric Holder, National Security Advisers Susan Rice and Jim Jones, William Cohen, the former Defense Secretary, Rusty Powell, the Director of the National Gallery of Art, baseball superstar, Mike Piazza, and tennis superstar, Andre Agassi.

Winik was the FOX News presidential historian for the historic coverage of both of Barack Obama’s presidential inaugurations (2009 and 2013) as well as for the funeral of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

Winik was in 2013 the Historical Advisor to the National Geographic Channels, and among a number of projects, worked on an epic six-part history of the 1980s with the renowned, award-winning Nutopia film company, which premiered to critical acclaim in over 100 countries.

Winik has also frequently appeared on a wide range of major national media, including The Today Show, The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, The News with Brian Williams, Good Morning America, World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and Gayle King, CNN, C-Span’s Booknotes with Brian Lamb, Special Report with Brit Hume, Special Report with Bret Baer, The Charlie Rose Show, NPR’s Weekend Edition with Scott Simon, Fresh Air, Talk of the Nation, the Diane Rehm Show and The Takeaway with John Hockenberry, The History Channel, C-Span Book TV and Washington Journal, The Connie Chung Show, and The Dennis Praeger Show. After 2001, he provided historical commentary for the BBC and MSNBC, was for two years a weekly regular on the History Channel’s "The History Center," and has been a lead commentator on numerous major documentary specials, such as the 2011 HISTORY special on FDR, "PEARL HARBOR: 24 Hours After," the “Lincoln” feature on the History Channel, and the “American Experience” special on Lincoln and PBS documentary on Alexander Hamilton. In June of 2008, he wrote and starred in a sold-out one-act two-person play/reading for Ford’s Theatre based on his April 1865.

Frequently asked to write or speak about Presidential Leadership and Abraham Lincoln, Winik recorded a series of 14 lectures on the Civil War for the Barnes and Noble Great Lectures series, and he is one of the lead authors of Presidential Leadership: Rating the Best and the Worst of the White House (Wall Street Journal Books, 2004); What Ifs? Of American History: Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been (Putnam, 2003); BookNotes on American Character (PublicAffairs, 2004); I Wish I’d Been There: Distinguished Historians Travel Back In Time, (Doubleday, 2006); and Abraham Lincoln: Great American Historians on our 16th president (Public Affairs/C-SPAN, 2008).

Winik’s articles and commentary have been widely published, including in the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal Leisure and Arts page, where he has been a frequent book reviewer as well as its op-ed page, Time magazine, the Smithsonian magazine, the American Heritage magazine, The Huffington Post, Parade, and numerous other scholarly and popular publications. For nearly two decades he had variously been a Senior Scholar of History and Public Policy and a Visiting Professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy and also has taught at Yale and George Washington University; earlier he had had a distinguished government career in national security and foreign policy, including advising two Secretaries of Defense and helping to create the landmark United Nations Plan for ending the Cambodian civil war. He has been in the thick of civil wars around the globe, from the former Yugoslavia to El Salvador, Nicaragua and Cambodia.

Born in Connecticut, Winik is a graduate of Yale College, and holds an M.Sc. with distinction from the London School of Economics and a Ph.D. from Yale University. Represented by Michael Carlisle in New York City, and the Washington Speakers Bureau, he is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, is an elected Fellow of the Society of American Historians, and served or serves on the Governing Council of the National Endowment for the Humanities, a presidential appointment, as well as the boards for American Heritage magazine and the journal, World Affairs; he is also a trustee or advisory board member of a number of non-profit boards, including National History Day, the Civil War Preservation Trust; Ford’s Theatre; The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission; The Lincoln Legacy Project, the Washington Tennis and Education Foundation; the Lincoln Forum; and earlier the Potomac School, and the Advisory Council of the James Madison Book Award. He is a nominator for the largest prize in the humanities, the $1.5 million John W Kluge award. He has also provided advice to the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, and was a juror for the prestigious George Washington book prize in 2008, and a recommender for the Heinz awards. A former ranked varsity tennis player at Yale, he is a member of the Edgemoor and St. Albans tennis clubs, and lives with his two sons, in Chevy Chase, MD.

Jay Winik Videos

  • Chapter 14: What If Lincoln Had Lived? - YouTube
  • Chapter 7: Lee's Decision to Surrender - YouTube
  • Chapter 10: Lincoln Visits Richmond - YouTube

Jay Winik Books

  • 1944: FDR and the Year That Changed History
    1944: FDR and the Year That Changed History

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  • What topics does Jay Winik speak about?

    Jay Winik is a keynote speaker and industry expert whose speaking topics include Authors, Media, Political Speakers, Speakers by Industry.
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Jay Winik is a keynote speaker and industry expert who speaks on a wide range of topics . The estimated speaking fee range to book Jay Winik for your event is available upon request. Jay Winik generally travels from Chevy Chase, MD, USA and can be booked for (private) corporate events, personal appearances, keynote speeches, or other performances. Similar motivational celebrity speakers are Thomas Woods, Ron Powers, Rinker Buck, Peter Thiel and Vijay Prashad. Contact All American Speakers for ratings, reviews, videos and information on scheduling Jay Winik for an upcoming live or virtual event.

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