Book Breaks

Book Breaks is a weekly interview series with historians held every Sunday at 2 p.m. ET (11 a.m. PT) on Zoom. Scroll down to see our upcoming programs!

Each week our hosts interview renowned scholars and discuss their acclaimed and frequently award-winning works, followed by a Q&A with the at-home audience. Our guests have included David Blight, Ken Burns, Eric Foner, Annette Gordon-Reed, Peniel Joseph, Jon Meacham, Clint Smith, and Elizabeth Varon. 

How do I attend Book Breaks?

Book Breaks is completely free for Affiliate School K–12 teachers and students, college students, and college professors. 

  • K-12 students, simply log in or create an account
  • College students, professors, and K–12 educators, log in, return to this page, and click the button to subscribe for access to all future programming and the Book Breaks archive. 

Members of the general public can purchase a one-year subscription for $25. The subscription includes

  • Full access to one year of weekly live programs
  • Unlimited access to our ever-expanding Book Breaks archive, featuring more than ninety sessions with the nation’s leading historians. View the full archive of past sessions. 
  • Log in and make your purchase

Can I watch a program before deciding to subscribe? 

Yes! First-time viewers can watch a Book Breaks program for free. Simply log in or create an account and you will see a link at the top of this page to access the week’s historian lecture and Q&A.


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Every Sunday at 2 p.m. ET (11 a.m. PT)

Upcoming Book Breaks


April 14 - Tomiko Brown-Nagin on Civil Rights Queen: Constance Baker Motley and the Struggle for Equality

Constance Baker Motley was “first” more than once. She was the first known Black woman to argue before the Supreme Court, be elected to New York’s state senate, and serve as a federal judge, and she was the first woman of any race to be borough president of Manhattan. Such accomplishments would be impressive on their own, but Motley was more than a pathbreaker. Her legal backup supported civil rights activists such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Birmingham Children’s Marchers when they took crucial but dangerous risks. She litigated hundreds of cases that desegregated flagship public universities in Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi. Motley was a person who made a difference.

Tomiko Brown-Nagin is dean of Harvard Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Daniel P. S. Paul Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School, and professor of history at Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Her previous book, Courage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights Movement, won a 2012 Bancroft Prize in American History. 

April 21 - Matthew Davenport on The Longest Minute: The Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906

April 28 - James G. Basker on Black Writers of the Founding Era

History Scholar of the Week

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, you will be named History Scholar of the Week, and it will be announced live on the program! In addition, both you and your teacher will win a $50 gift certificate to the Gilder Lehrman Gift Shop. Your question can be about the book or the topic in general. Please submit only one question per program.

Submit your question here.

The deadline to submit a question for the upcoming Book Breaks is Thursday.

Book Breaks Archive

The Book Breaks archive contains more than three years of past programs featuring historians such as David Blight, H. W. Brands, Ken Burns, Eric Foner, Annette Gordon-Reed, Peniel Joseph, Jon Meacham, Elizabeth Varon, and more. Still deciding whether to subscribe? You can watch Harold Holzer’s talk on Brought Forth on This Continent: Abraham Lincoln and American Immigration (winner of the Lincoln Prize) below to help you make up your mind.

View the full archive of past sessions

The Institute thanks Citizen Travelers, the nonpartisan civic engagement initiative of The Travelers Companies, Inc., for its support of Book Breaks.

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