Book Breaks

Book Breaks is a weekly interview series with historians held every Sunday at 2 pm ET (11 am 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, Eric Foner, Annette Gordon-Reed, Clint Smith, Peniel Joseph, 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.


Email us at

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

Upcoming Book Breaks


September 24, 2023 - What Sorrows Labour in My Parent’s Breast? A History of the Enslaved Black Family

What Sorrows Labour in My Parents BreastEnslaved poet Phillis Wheatley famously pondered “What sorrows labour in my parent’s breast?” In a book honoring this question, Brenda Stevenson provides a concise history of enslaved people’s family life. The family, she argues, was critical to maintaining enslaved peoples’ resilience and resistance, because loving a family required commitment to a reality transcending legal bondage. Kinship perpetuated joy, spiritual well-being, and feelings of belonging. Stevenson traces how families were formed and maintained from the colonial era until emancipation, examining courtship and marriage rituals, parenthood, and communal activities. Brenda E. Stevenson is the inaugural Hillary Rodham Clinton Chair in Women’s History at St. John’s College, Oxford University and the Nickoll Family Endowed Chair in the Department of History and a professor of African American studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Purchase books for Book Breaks at the Gilder Lehrman Book Shop. We receive a commission from every purchase through the link provided. Thank you for supporting our programs and independent bookstores!

Coming Soon

October 1 - Jon Meacham on And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle

October 8 - Drew Faust on Necessary Trouble: Growing Up at Midcentury

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 two years of past programs from historians such as David Blight, Eric Foner, Annette Gordon-Reed, Peniel Joseph, Elizabeth Varon, Ken Burns, and more. Still deciding whether to subscribe? You can watch Ada Ferrer’s talk on Cuba: An American History (winner of the Pulitzer 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.

Citizen Travelers Logo