Yale News

Beverly Gage, professor of history and American Studies, received the 2023 Pulitzer Prize in biography last month.

Her winning book, “G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century,” is an 860-page tome examining the country’s first FBI director and his role in transforming American governmental power. 

“This is an enormous accomplishment — first and foremost, of course, for Beverly Gage and her tremendous book,” history department chair Alan Mikhail wrote in an email to the News. “Her win brings the number of current Yale history faculty who have won Pultizers to four. We have more than any other history department.”

Gage’s Pulitzer comes with a $15,000 cash award. She joins three other current members of the Yale history department — John Gaddis, David Blight and Greg Gandin ’99 Ph.D.  — who have previously won Pulitzer Prizes.

On her website, Gage says that while researching the book, she pulled from a variety of “never-before-seen” sources to reconstruct a portrait of the controversial figure.

“[‘G-Man’ is] a deeply researched and nuanced look at one of the most polarizing figures in U.S. history that depicts the longtime FBI director in all his complexity, with monumental achievements and crippling flaws,” the Pulitzer Committee’s website reads. “In her nuanced and definitive portrait, Gage shows how Hoover was more than a one-dimensional tyrant and schemer who strong-armed the rest of the country into submission,” 

Gage first began thinking about a Hoover biography while a graduate student at Columbia University, she said, but only started working on it in 2009. Per Gage, “G-Man” is the product of over a decade of work and marks the first extended biography of Hoover in 30 years. 

In addition to the Pulitzer, “G-Man” also earned the 2023 Bancroft Prize, the 2023 Barbara and David Zalaznick Book Prize in American History, the 2023 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography and the 2022 National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography.

G-Man’s array of accolades, Gage said, affirms the power that rigorous biography continues to hold.

“In our world of Twitter and social media and quick takes, I wondered along the way whether the world still valued this deep-dive, intensive work,” Gage told the News. “And so I’m of course very excited for myself, but I also am excited that this is still something that people care about and want to reward.”

Hoover appears in nearly every course Gage has taught at the University, but the class in which he figures most prominently is a seminar called “Communism and Anticommunism in the Twentieth-Century United States.” 

Gage explained that her interactions with students in the course have been integral in shaping her understanding of Hoover. 

“I have subjected whole generations of Yale students to learning about J. Edgar Hoover,” Gage said. “For the new generation of students, he’s someone that they have to be introduced to. It’s been really interesting to watch students encounter him anew and grapple with this legacy.”

In addition to teaching history and American Studies, Gage served as director of Yale’s Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy until she resigned in September 2021 due to pressure from donors to control the program’s curriculum.

Through her work on “G-Man,” Gage examined a litany of topics that remain relevant in politics today, including government surveillance, political extremism and the relationship between the FBI and White House. 

She said that leveraging the past to address issues of the present is typical of the work done by her colleagues in the history department, whom she complimented for their continued work in producing deeply researched books that make history more accessible to general readerships. 

“We hear a lot in the news these days about a decline of interest in history, or the humanities or areas of traditional scholarship like that,” Gage said. “And I am just so incredibly grateful and excited to be at a place like Yale, where all of those areas of study are so vibrant, and alive, not only among the faculty, but I think among the students as well.”

The other finalists for the 2023 Pulitzer Prize in biography were “Mr. B: George Balanchine’s 20th Century” by Jennifer Homan and “His Name Is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice” by Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa.

Gage published “G-Man” on Nov. 22, 2022.

Molly Reinmann covers Admissions, Financial Aid & Alumni for the News. Originally from Westchester, New York, she is a sophomore in Berkeley College majoring in American Studies.