Programs & Events

Seminar Summit, July 19-22: The Changing Supreme Court: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

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.


Bruce Allen Murphy, Fred Morgan Kirby Professor of Civil Rights, Lafayette College


As seen in the recent controversy concerning the appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, over the past 230 years, the Supreme Court has been the epicenter for the major legal and political battles that have reshaped America’s Constitution, governmental structure, individual rights and liberties, and overall democracy. This seminar will survey the legal, historical, and political context for the pivotal decisions of the Supreme Court, including the cases on the redesigned AP Government and Politics exam. In addition, we will explore how the changing nature of the presidential appointment and Senatorial confirmation process for the selection of justices have changed in a way that has permanently altered the nature of the institution and its work. We will explore cases dealing with: the First Amendment's freedoms of speech, association, religion, and the press; the spatial and personal autonomy privacy rights; Defendants' Rights, race and gender discrimination, voting rights, and Presidential and Congressional authority in the Constitution's separation of powers system. In seeking to better understand how justices make these decisions individually and collectively, this seminar will also explore the ongoing debate between the historically oriented, Constitutional “Originalists,” such as Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, and the “living, evolving Constitutionalists,” such as Justices William O. Douglas and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  In this way, we will better understand where the Supreme Court has been, where it is today, and where it might be going in the future.

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