Programs & Events

Seminar Summit, July 19-22: The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass

Due to the growing health crisis and restrictions on in-person gatherings, the Gilder Lehrman Institute will not be able to offer in-person Teacher Seminars this summer. We are working on an alternative offering for the summer. Please visit for updates.


David W. Blight, Sterling Professor of History, African American Studies, and American Studies; Director, Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, Yale University


 Frederick Douglass’s life (1818–1895) and writings stand across the nineteenth century as representative of the best and the worst in the American spirit. Born a slave in Maryland, he escaped to freedom in the North at age 20. He went on to write the most important of all slave narratives and became one of the most ubiquitous and important orators of American history. He edited his own antislavery newspaper for sixteen years. Internationally he attained fame and influence as a reformer and man of letters. He was especially well-known and well-connected in Ireland, Scotland, and England. In American politics he labored both as an outsider-critic and as eventually an appointed insider for the early Republican Party. Douglass left thousands of editorials and speeches and 1200 pages of autobiography for us to assess. His life was heroic and complex as well as full of personal and public strife. He was in many ways a radical reformer, even at times a revolutionary. But later in his career he also became a staunch proponent of political liberalism, black self-reliance, the self-made man tradition, and other philosophical positions. This seminar will be an examination of Douglass’s work, as activist and intellectual, as well as an assessment of his personal life.

Travel & Accommodations

This seminar is part of the 2020 Teacher Seminar Summit. During this inaugural Summit, the Institute will offer twelve concurrent seminars ranging from the Age of Discovery through the Vietnam War. The Summit is expected to serve more than 400 teachers. Each attendee will participate in a seminar with a lead scholar and master teacher, and will have the opportunity to attend book talks where they can hear other eminent historians discuss their major works. This unique format will also give all participating teachers a chance to network with each other.

Participants are responsible for making their own travel arrangements; the Institute will provide a stipend of $350 for travel expenses. Read the policy hereGettysburg College is located in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The closest and most convenient airports are Harrisburg International Airport (a 45-minute drive) and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (a 75-minute drive). The college provides shuttle service to campus from many of the major transportation hubs in the area. Call Transportation Services, 717-337-6923, to make arrangements.

The Harrisburg Amtrak Station is about 45 minutes from campus. Again, the college provides shuttle service so long as you call ahead.

If you plan to drive, the Gettysburg College website will provide you with detailed instructions.

Workshop participants will stay in on-campus housing in private bedrooms with a shared common bathroom and common space. The rooms are air-conditioned. The college will provide sheets, a blanket, a pillow, and one towel. You are welcome to bring your own fitted sheets. Please note that participants should plan to bring alarm clocks, hangers, irons, hair dryers, and shower shoes.

Participants should plan to bring laptops, as computer access on campus will be limited.


Meals will be served in a college cafeteria in space shared by other programs. All on-campus meals will be paid for by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.


Please be sure to review the Institute’s policies on independent school teacher participation and travel stipends before applying.


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

Seminar Year: 2019-2020