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.

Every Sunday at 2 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.

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


Upcoming Book Breaks

AUGUST

REGISTER FOR THE SUNDAY, AUGUST 1 BOOK BREAKS WITH CLINT SMITH HERE.

August 1, 2021 - Clint Smith discusses his book How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery across America.

Beginning in his own hometown of New Orleans, Clint Smith leads the reader through a tour of monuments and landmarks—those that are honest about the past and those that are not—that offer an intergenerational story of how slavery has been central in shaping our nation’s collective history.

It is the story of the Monticello Plantation in Virginia, the estate where Thomas Jefferson wrote letters espousing the urgent need for liberty while enslaving over 400 people on the premises. It is the story of the Whitney Plantation, one of the only former plantations devoted to preserving the experience of the enslaved people whose lives and work sustained it.

In this exploration of the legacy of slavery and its imprint on centuries of American history, How the Word Is Passed illustrates how some of our country’s most essential stories are hidden in plain view—whether in places we might drive by on our way to work, holidays such as Juneteenth, or entire neighborhoods—like downtown Manhattan—on which the brutal history of the trade in enslaved men, women, and children has been deeply imprinted.

Register Here

Clint Smith is a staff writer at The Atlantic and the author of the poetry collection Counting Descent. The book won the 2017 Literary Award for Best Poetry Book from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award. He has received fellowships from New America, the Emerson Collective, the Art For Justice Fund, Cave Canem, and the National Science Foundation. His writing has been published in The New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, Poetry Magazine, the Paris Review, and elsewhere.

Order How the Word Is Passed at the Gilder Lehrman Book Shop

REGISTER FOR THE SUNDAY, AUGUST 8 BOOK BREAKS WITH ADRIAN BRETTLE HERE.

August 8, 2021 - Adrian Brettle discusses his book Colossal Ambitions: Confederate Planning for a Post–Civil War World.

 

Leading politicians, diplomats, clerics, planters, farmers, manufacturers, and merchants preached a transformative, world-historical role for the Confederacy, persuading many of their compatriots to fight not merely to retain what they had but to gain their future empire. Impervious to reality, their vision of future world leadership—territorial, economic, political, and cultural—provided a vitally important, underappreciated motivation to form an independent Confederate republic.

Adrian Brettle explores how leading Confederate thinkers envisioned their postwar nation—its relationship with the United States, its place in the Americas, and its role in the global order. He draws on rich caches of published and unpublished letters and diaries, Confederate national and state government documents, newspapers published in North America and England, conference proceedings, pamphlets, contemporary and scholarly articles, and more to engage the perspectives of not only modern historians but some of the most salient theorists of the Western World in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Register Here

Adrian Brettle is a lecturer and associate director of the Political History and Leadership Program in the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies at Arizona State University.

Order Colossal Ambitions at the Gilder Lehrman Book Shop

REGISTER FOR THE SUNDAY, AUGUST 15 BOOK BREAKS WITH GORDON H. CHANG HERE.

August 15, 2021 - Gordon H. Chang discusses his book Ghosts of Gold Mountain: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad

From across the sea, they came by the thousands, escaping war and poverty in southern China to seek their fortunes in America. Converging on the enormous western worksite of the Transcontinental Railroad, the migrants spent years dynamiting tunnels through the snow-packed cliffs of the Sierra Nevada and laying tracks across the burning Utah desert. Their sweat and blood fueled the ascent of an interlinked, industrial United States. But those of them who survived this perilous effort would suffer a different kind of death—a historical one, as they were pushed first to the margins of American life and then to the fringes of public memory. Gordon H. Chang draws on research to recover the Chinese railroad workers’ stories and celebrate their role in remaking America.

Register Here

Gordon H. Chang is the Olive H. Palmer Professor in Humanities and Professor of History at Stanford University, where he also serves as director of the Center for East Asian Studies and codirector of the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project. Chang is the author of Fateful Ties and editor of four other books.

Order Ghosts of Gold Mountain at the Gilder Lehrman Book Shop


Coming Soon

Carl Smith and Chicago’s Great Fire: The Destruction and Resurrection of an Iconic American City
Mary Sarotte and Not One Inch: America, Russia, and the Making of Post-Cold War Stalemate
 


View the full archive of past sessions