Emerging Civil War has selected John Coski as the recipient of the 2019 Emerging Civil War Award for Service in Civil War Public History.
The Award for Service in Civil War Public History recognizes the work of an individual or organization that has made a significant impact on the field of public history in a way that better helps the general public connect with America’s defining event. “We have a strong public history mission at ECW, and we want to recognize—and offer our gratitude to—the work of others who share that same mission,” explains ECW Editor-in-Chief Chris Mackowski.
This year’s recipient, John Coski, is Historian and Director of Research & Publications at the American Civil War Museum, a position he’s held since 2014. Prior to that, he served in a variety of positions, including historian and director of the library and research, at the Museum of the Confederacy, since 1988. He’s the author of dozens of publications, including the groundbreaking The Confederate Battle Flag: America’s Most Embattled Emblem (Harvard University Press, 2005).
“John Coski is one of the people in the Civil War community I respect the most,” said ECW Chief Historian Chris Kolakowski in presenting the award. “Since 1988, John has been the maven of the library of the Museum of the Confederacy and its successor, the American Civil War Museum. This is an essential collection for anyone wanting to understand any aspect of the Confederate war. Everyone who has come in contact with him recognizes his expertise, his modesty and willingness to share, and his absolute professionalism.”
Coski earned his B.A. from Mary Washington College and his M.A. and Ph.D. in History from the College of William and Mary and worked summers at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, Antietam National Battlefield, and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
Aside from The Confederate Battle Flag, Coski is the author of several other books, most notably Capital Navy: The Men, Ships, and Operations of the James River Squadron (Savas, 1996). He has published more than 150 essays, articles, and reviews and has delivered more than 250 public talks, conference papers, and panel discussion comments around the country on a wide range of topics. He has recently begun research toward what he hopes to be a book-length history of Belle Isle, tentatively entitled Belle Isle: Life and Death, Past and Present on America’s Founding River.
Kolakowski lauded the accessibility of Coski’s scholarship. “John Coski is a fantastic scholar on the Civil War and Confederate iconography,” he said. “His publications on the naval war and the Confederate battle flag provide superb information and important perspectives.”
ECW Editor-in-Chief Chris Mackowski noted the important work Coski has done on Confederate symbolism. “John’s work on the Confederate battle flag has been objective and balanced, treating it as a historical object worthy of study rather than an icon to be worshipped and revered,” Mackowski explained. “In the past four years, as Confederate heritage has exploded into the headlines in an emotionally and politically charged way, John’s steady, evenhanded scholarship proved to be an invaluable resource for anyone trying to understand the context behind the hype.”
Coski lives in Richmond in Westover Hills—on the edge of the James River Park—with his wife, Ruth Ann, and their dog, Portia, aka the “Projects Princess.”
ECW will feature an extended conversation with Coski later this month.