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


The genre of slave narratives is usually divided into three categories: biographies, fiction, and autobiographies, with the third category by far the largest. Autobiographies by former slaves were first published in the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century and grew in scale as new texts were promoted and printed by the early abolition movement in Britain and the United States. This seminar for teachers will examine in depth both antebellum and postbellum narratives. Before the Civil War approximately sixty-five narratives were published in English, many of them now classics by such authors as Harriet Jacobs, Solomon Northup, and William Wells Brown. The pre-emancipation narratives were often serious works of literature as well as works that fit into certain conventions and formulas. They tended to focus squarely on the oppression of slavery, using a former slave’s indictment of the institution of bondage as a means of advancing the anti-slavery argument. The post-emancipation narratives, of which there are approximately fifty-five in existence, tended to be more success stories—triumphs over the past and visions of a more prosperous future. The most famous pre-war narrative is that of Frederick Douglass, and the most famous post-war narrative is that of Booker T. Washington. The seminar will cover both of these and several more, including A Slave No More, which reveals two unique postbellum narratives as a means of understanding the experience of emancipation itself. Moreover, the seminar will use the slave narratives, as well as some other assigned secondary readings, to comprehend the lived experience of slaves themselves in the transition from bondage to freedom.


Readings are sent by the Institute to seminar participants. Please check back soon for a list of readings.

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 cost $94 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 be housed in a university residence hall. Rooms are arranged in suites of two single bedrooms with a furnished living room, shared bath, and a kitchenette. The building is air-conditioned. Internet service is provided. Please bring your own cables. Participants should plan to bring laptops, as computer access on campus will be limited.

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 in American history to participating seminar teachers. For more information click here.

Course Reviews from Summer 2013 Participants

“My seminar experience was fantastic! The mix of history and English teachers was truly informative and inspirational, and gave all attendees a unique experience with the seminar’s content. . . . The Yale experience was world class.”

“Totally amazing; the best educational experience of my life (and I have an MA and a JD). David Blight is brilliant, intellectual, down-to-earth, funny, approachable, and did I mention brilliant? Our master teacher was also great. She kept us perfectly on site and on task, everything flowed smoothly. The activities were perfect, the graveyard visit and the Yale Rare Book library were great . . . my students will benefit from the gift I received. Thank you.”

“This seminar was by far one of the most beneficial and powerful professional experiences that I have ever had. Everything from the interaction with Dr. Blight to the conversations with other teachers blew me away! I will never forget this experience and I would recommend this seminar to other educators.”


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

June 22nd, 2014 12:00 AM   through   June 28th, 2014 9:00 AM
Yale University
New Haven, CT
United States

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Seminar Fee
Attending $50.00
Not Attending $0.00

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