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Assess the complex life and legacy of Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) as activist, artist, and thinker through both his public and his private life and through his writings.


David Blight, Class of 1954 Professor of American History and Director, Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, Yale University


Frederick Douglass’s life (1818–1895) and writings stand across the nineteenth century as representative of the best and the worst in the American spirit. Born a slave in Maryland, he escaped to freedom in the North at age 20. He went on to write the most important of all slave narratives and became one of the most important orators of American history. Internationally, he attained fame and influence as a reformer and man of letters. In American politics he labored as both an outsider-critic and, eventually, an appointed insider for the early Republican Party. Douglass left thousands of editorials and speeches and 1200 pages of autobiography for us to assess. His life was heroic and complex as well as full of personal and public strife. Douglass has been the subject of literary, philosophical, political-theoretical, artistic, and historical analysis for many years. He will always be remembered and studied for at least three major roles he played in the nineteenth century: activist, artist, and thinker. In assessing his biography, we will examine both his public and his private life. Finally, we will observe how and why Douglass became the most photographed American of the nineteenth century.

Travel & Accommodations

Yale University is located in New Haven, Connecticut. The Tweed-New Haven Airport is located about fifteen minutes from the Yale Campus. Taxis from Tweed cost about $15.00 one way. Additionally, Bradley Airport is located an hour north of New Haven and is served by many major airlines. Connecticut Limo shuttles leave once an hour and cost $84 round trip. Amtrak provides service directly into New Haven’s Union Station, about a ten-minute cab ride from downtown New Haven and the Yale campus. MetroNorth provides commuter service on a regular basis from New York City into New Haven.

Workshop participants will stay in a university residence hall. Rooms are arranged in suites of two single bedrooms with a furnished living room, shared bath, and kitchenette. The building is air-conditioned. Participants should plan to bring laptops as computer access on campus will be limited. Internet service is provided, but not Ethernet cables.

Yale provides sheets and towels only. Please note that participants should plan to bring alarm clocks, hangers, irons, and hair dryers. Kitchenettes are located in each suite. However, participants should bring their own utensils. Housekeeping services are provided throughout the week.


Meals will be served in a university cafeteria in space shared by other programs. All on-campus meals will be paid for by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

Travel Reimbursement

Participants are responsible for making their own travel arrangements to and from the seminar. Each seminar participant will receive reimbursement of travel expenses up to $400. Please read our complete travel reimbursement policy before applying.

Graduate Credit

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is proud to announce its agreement with Adams State University to offer three hours of graduate credit to participating seminar teachers. For more information click here.


Email the Teacher Seminars department or call 646-366-9666.

June 18th, 2017 5:00 PM   through   June 24th, 2017 9:00 AM
Yale University
New Haven, CT
United States

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2017 Teacher Seminar Registration Fee $75.00

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