Announcing Gilder Lehrman Book Breaks: Live Discussions with Eminent Historians on Sunday Afternoons

NEW YORK, NY (May 8, 2020) -- The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History today announced the start of Gilder Lehrman Book Breaks, an online Sunday afternoon program that features the most exciting historians in America discussing their books live with host William Roka, followed by a Q&A.

Programs will take place on Sundays at 2 p.m. ET on Zoom starting on May 10 with renowned historian Eric Foner.

President of the Gilder Lehrman Institute James Basker says, “We’re delighted to launch this program to bring the greatest historians to the general public. I think anyone who cares about history will love it.”

William Roka, education coordinator at the Gilder Lehrman Institute and formerly the historian and public programs manager at the South Street Seaport Museum, looks forward to his hosting role, saying, “It is exciting to be on the forefront of digital programming and to have the chance to connect folks at home to these amazing historians.”

For the month of May, the Book Breaks authors are Eric Foner, Annette Gordon-Reed, John M. Barry, and Richard Stengel on the following schedule:

May 10 — Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor Emeritus of History at Columbia University, who specializes in the Civil War and Reconstruction, slavery, and nineteenth-century America, discusses his book The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution.

Foner is one of only two people to serve as president of the Organization of American Historians, American Historical Association, and Society of American Historians. His book The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery won the Pulitzer, Bancroft, and Lincoln Prizes for 2011. Other books include Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad and the widely used textbook Give Me Liberty! An American History.

May 17 — Annette Gordon-Reed, the Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History at Harvard Law School and a professor of history in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University, discusses her Pulitzer Prize–winning book The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family

Gordon-Reed had previously written about Jefferson and Hemmings in Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy. She is also the author of Andrew Johnson. Her most recent book (with Peter S. Onuf) is “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination.

May 24 — John M. Barry, a New York Times best-selling author whose books have won multiple awards, discusses his book The Great Influenza

The National Academies of Sciences named Barry’s 2004 book, The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, a Study of the 1918 Pandemic, the year’s outstanding book on science or medicine. His earlier book Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America won the Francis Parkman Prize of the Society of American Historians for the year’s best book on American history and in 2005 the New York Public Library named it one of the 50 best books in the preceding 50 years.

May 31 — Richard Stengel, the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs from 2013 to 2016, discusses his 2019 book, Information Wars

Before working at the State Department, Stengel was the editor of TIME for seven years. He collaborated with Nelson Mandela on the South African leader’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. Stengel later wrote Mandela’s Way, a New York Times best-seller, on his experience working with Mandela. He is the author of several other books, including January Sun, about life in a small South African town, as well as You’re Too Kind: A Brief History of Flattery. He is an NBC/MSNBC analyst and lives in New York City.

In the coming months, more of the country’s most lauded and influential historians will join us on Book Breaks to discuss books of their choosing, including

David Blight, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow

Peniel Joseph, The Sword and the Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.

Elizabeth Varon, Armies of Deliverance: A New History of the Civil War

Books by all authors participating in Book Breaks are available at the Gilder Lehrman Book Shop (

Information about and registration for Book Breaks can be found at