Book Breaks

Gilder Lehrman Book Breaks features the most exciting history scholars in America discussing their books live with host William Roka, followed by a Q&A with home audiences.

Programs take place on Sunday afternoons at 12 p.m. ET.

Student Question Submission Competition

Middle and high school students (age 13 and up), submit your questions for one of the historians being featured on Book Breaks. If your question is chosen, it will be announced live on the program and in recognition you and your teacher will each win a $50 gift certificate to the Gilder Lehrman gift shop! Your question can be about the book or the topic in general. Please, only one submission per program. 

Submit your question here.

Deadline to submit a question for the upcoming Book Breaks session is Thursday.

Upcoming Book Breaks


October 25, 2020 - Manisha Sinha discusses her book The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition

This book is a groundbreaking history of abolition that recovers the largely forgotten role of African Americans in the long march toward emancipation from the American Revolution through the Civil War.

Received historical wisdom casts abolitionists as bourgeois, mostly White reformers burdened by racial paternalism and economic conservatism. Manisha Sinha, the James L. and Shirley A. Draper Chair in American History at the University of Connecticut, overturns this image, broadening her scope beyond the antebellum period usually associated with abolitionism and recasting it as a radical social movement in which men and women, Black and White, free and enslaved found common ground in causes ranging from feminism and utopian socialism to anti-imperialism and efforts to defend the rights of labor. Drawing on extensive archival research, including newly discovered letters and pamphlets, Sinha documents the influence of the Haitian Revolution and the centrality of slave resistance in shaping the ideology and tactics of abolition. This book is a comprehensive history of the abolition movement in a transnational context. It illustrates how the abolitionist vision ultimately linked the slave’s cause to the struggle to redefine American democracy and human rights across the globe.

Order The Slave’s Cause at the Gilder Lehrman Institute’s Bookshop Store.


November 1, 2020 - Lonnie G. Bunch III discusses his book A Fool’s Errand: Creating the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the Age of Bush, Obama, and Trump

A Fool’s Errand is Lonnie Bunch’s deeply personal tale of the triumphs and challenges of bringing the National Museum of African American HIstory and Culture, the Smithsonian’s nineteenth museum, to life. Outlining the challenges of site choice, architect selection, building design, and the compilation of an unparalleled collection of African American artifacts, Bunch, now Secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, also delves into his personal struggles as the founding director of the NMAAHC—especially the stress of a high-profile undertaking—and the triumph of establishing such an institution without mentors or guidebooks to light the way. His memoir underscores his determination to create a museum that treats the African American experience as an essential component of every American’s identity.

Order A Fool’s Errand at the Gilder Lehrman Institute’s Bookshop Store.

Coming Soon

Kariann Yokota, Unbecoming British: How Revolutionary America Became a Postcolonial Nation

David S. Reynolds, Abe: Abraham Lincoln in His Times

David Blight, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom

Susan Eisenhower, How Ike Led: The Principles Behind Eisenhower’s Biggest Decisions

Last Week’s Book Breaks

October 18, 2020 - Christopher Leslie Brown discussed his book Moral Capital: Foundations of British Abolitionism

Order Moral Capital at the Gilder Lehrman Institute’s Bookshop Store.

View full archive of past sessions

Gilder Lehrman Institute Education Coordinator William RokaDiscussion moderator William Roka is an independent researcher focusing on the history of travel and ocean liners in the early twentieth century. He has presented at conferences in the UK, Argentina, Australia, and across the US. He was the historian and public programs manager at the South Street Seaport Museum from 2016 to 2018, and curated the exhibition Millions: Migrants and Millionaires aboard the Great Liners, 1900–1914. His paper on ocean liners and travel in the early twentieth century was published in the inaugural edition of the Yearbook of Transnational History in 2018. He currently is an education coordinator for the Hamilton Education Program at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. He studied history at University College London and international relations at King’s College London.