Since 2004, the Gilder Lehrman Institute has presented awards to the best history teachers in the United States. Together with our partners Preserve America and HISTORY, we award 53 winners from US states and territories and one national winner each year. In this video, partners describe the award—and why it matters.
Pauline Maier, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of American History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), discusses several aspects of her book American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence. She reveals that the most stirring ideals for us today were an expression of the will of the people and the embodiment of the historical experiences of Americans, rather than the work of a single individual (Thomas Jefferson). She focuses particularly on the meaning and evolution of the phrase, "all men are created equal."
In 1807, Aaron Burr was tried and acquitted on charges of treason for his "adventures" in the American West, but he had fallen out of favor in American life long before, after he had run for president against Thomas Jefferson, served a single term as vice president, and shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in an 1804 duel. A free spender, a womanizer, and the only Founding Father who was actually descended from the English aristocracy, Burr was famously secretive and conspiratorial. In this lecture, historian Gordon S. Wood, Alva O. Way University Professor and Professor of History Emeritus at Brown University, argues that Burr's true treason was not his actions in the West but his naked ambition and his lack of principles and character that made him a threat to the young republic.
In Jean Strouse’s Morgan: American Financier, J. P. Morgan emerges as a man who was critical in reorganizing bankrupt railroads, attracting gold and investment to the United States, and building a financial empire, but who, at his death in 1913, was one of the most vilified men of the Gilded Age.
Joseph J. Ellis, Professor of History at Mount Holyoke College, discusses his Pulitzer Prize–winning book Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation, explains the emergence of the men who led the Revolutionary War and created the new nation, and delves into the four criticisms modern society lays at the door of the Founding Fathers.
Columbia University historian Eric Foner discusses his most recent work, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, with James G. Basker, president of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.