Marking the 200th birthday (April 26) of the celebrated landscape architect who designed Central Park and other urban oases, we examine Frederick Law Olmsted’s “other” careers—first as a journalist reporting on the horrors of slavery in the antebellum South, then as leader of the U. S. Sanitary Commission, working to improve the health of Civil War Soldiers and care for the sick and wounded… despite pushback from the War Department and the indifference of President Lincoln, whom Olmsted met in Washington. By war’s end, Olmsted had nursed battlefield casualties, helped found the Union League, and worked to recruit New York’s first Black troops. Only then did he resume work on the park.

Harold Holzer is the Lincoln Prize-winning author of more than 50 books on Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War and former Roger Hertog Fellow at the New-York Historical Society. Louise Mirrer (moderator) is president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society.