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About the Center

The Gilder Lehrman Center strives to make a vital contribution to the understanding of slavery and its role in the development of the modern world. While the Center's primary focus has been on scholarly research, it also seeks to bridge the divide between scholarship and public knowledge by opening channels of communication between the scholarly community and the wider public. In collaboration with secondary schools, museums, parks, historical societies, and other related institutions, the Center facilitates a locally rooted understanding of the global impact of slavery. To foster this understanding, the Center offers a variety of programs including:

  • Annual International Conference
  • Lectures, forums, and workshops
  • Visiting residential research fellowships
  • Frederick Douglass Book Prize, an award for the most outstanding book in English on the subject of slavery, resistance, or abolition across time and all nations.
  • Professional development workshops for high school and middle school teachers
  • Accessible online databases of historical documents
  • Management of the World Bibliography of Slavery and Abolition
  • Annual Working Group interdisciplinary forum that brings together selected scholars to investigate specific themes related to slavery
  • Other collaborative efforts with local, statewide, national, and international institutions to promote public education about slavery and its destruction

Contact Information

Mailing Address:
PO Box 208206
New Haven, CT 06520-8206

Shipping Address:
230 Prospect St. Rm 300
New Haven, CT 06511

Phone: 203-432-3339
Fax: 203-432-6943

Directions to Luce Hall


David W. Blight, Director

David W. Blight is Class of 1954 Professor of American History at Yale University, joining that faculty in January, 2003. He previously taught at Amherst College for thirteen years. As of June, 2004, he is Director, succeeding David Brion Davis, of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale. In 2010-11, Blight was the Rogers Distinguished Fellow in 19th century American History at the Huntington Library, San Marino, CA. During the 2006-07 academic year he was a fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Writers and Scholars, New York Public Library. He is currently writing a new, full biography of Frederick Douglass that will be published by Simon and Schuster by 2013. Blight works in many capacities in the world of public history, including on boards of museums and historical societies, and as a member of a small team of advisors to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum team of curators. For that institution he wrote the recently published essay, "Will It Rise: September 11 in American Memory." In 20112, Blight was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Blight's newest book, American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era (Harvard University Press, published August 2011), received the 2012 Anisfield-Wolf Award for best book in non-fiction on racism and human diversity; the work is an intellectual history of Civil War memory, rooted in the work of Robert Penn Warren, Bruce Catton, Edmund Wilson, and James Baldwin. Blight is also the author of A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including their Narratives of Emancipation, (Harcourt, 2007), paperback in 2009. This book combines two newly discovered slave narratives in a volume that recovers the lives of their authors, John Washington and Wallace Turnage, as well as provides an incisive history of the story of emancipation. In June, 2004, the New York Times ran a front page story about the discovery and significance of these two rare slave narratives. A Slave No More garnered three book prizes, including the Connecticut Book Award for non-fiction. Blight recently published the articles, "The Theft of Lincoln in History, Politics, and Memory," in Our Lincoln, Eric Foner, ed., (2008); and "Hating and Loving the 'Real' Abe Lincolns: Lincoln and the American South," in Richard Carwardine and Jay Sexton, eds., The Global Lincoln, (Oxford Univ. Press, 2011); "Mirror of Memory," American Interest, August, 2011; and numerous op-ed columns for newspapers, including the New York Times and the New York Daily News.

Blight is also the author of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (Harvard University Press, 2001), which received eight book awards, including the Bancroft Prize, the Abraham Lincoln Prize, and the Frederick Douglass Prize as well as four awards from the Organization of American Historians, including the Merle Curti prizes for both intellectual and social history. Other published works include a book of essays, Beyond the Battlefield: Race, Memory, and the American Civil War (University of Massachusetts Press, 2002); and Frederick Douglass's Civil War: Keeping Faith in Jubilee (LSU Press, 1989). Blight is the editor of and author of introductions for six books, including When This Cruel War Is Over: The Civil War Letters of Charles Harvey Brewster (Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 1992); Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (Bedford Books, 1993); co-editor with Robert Gooding-Williams, W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (Bedford Books, 1997); co-editor with Brooks Simpson, Union and Emancipation: Essays on Politics and Race in the Civil War Era (Kent State Univ. Press, 1997); and Caleb Bingham, The Columbian Orator (orig. 1797, NYU Press, 1997), the book of oratory and antislavery writings that Frederick Douglass discovered while a youth. The edited volume, Passages to Freedom: The Underground Railroad in History and Memory, was published by Smithsonian Press in 2004 and is the companion book for the opening of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati.

Blight is also a frequent book reviewer for the Washington Post Book World, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Boston Globe, and other newspapers, and has written many articles on abolitionism, American historical memory, and African American intellectual and cultural history. He is one of the authors of the bestselling American history textbook for the college level, A People and a Nation (Houghton Mifflin). He is also series advisor and editor for the Bedford Books series in American History and Culture, a popular series of teaching books for the college level. Blight lectures widely in the US and around the world on the Civil War and Reconstruction, race relations, Douglass, Du Bois, and problems in public history and American historical memory. He teaches summer institutes for secondary teachers and for park rangers and historians in the National Park Service, devoting a good deal of time to these and many other public history initiatives.

Blight has been a consultant to many documentary films, including the 1998 PBS series, "Africans in America," and "The Reconstruction Era" (2004). Blight has a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and did his undergraduate degree at Michigan State University. He has also taught at Harvard University, at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, and for seven years was a public high school teacher in his hometown, Flint, Michigan. He was also senior Fulbright Professor in American Studies at the University of Munich in Germany in 1992-93.

Blight was elected as a member of the Society of American Historians in 2002. Board of Trustees memberships include the New York Historical Society, the National Civil War Center at Tredegar in Richmond, VA, and the board for African American Programs at Monticello in Charlottesville, VA. He also served on the board of advisors to the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and is involved in planning numerous conferences and events to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. In his capacity as director of the Gilder Lehrman Center at Yale, Blight organizes conferences, working groups, lectures, the administering of the annual Frederick Douglass Book Prize, and many public outreach programs regarding the history of slavery and its abolition. Blight maintains a professional web site at and his lectures for the course, "The Civil War and Reconstruction Era," are available on line at the Yale University web site,, linking to the program, "Open Courses." In 2009, Blight chaired the jury for non-fiction for the National Book Award.

David Brion Davis, Director Emeritus

David Brion Davis, Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University and the founding director of the Gilder Lehrman Center, is the author of The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, and many other books. His 2006 book, Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World, received the Ralph Waldo Emerson Prize from the Phi Beta Kappa Society. His other awards include the Pulitzer Prize, the Bancroft Prize, the American Historical Associations' Albert J. Beveridge Award, the National Book Award, and the 2004 Bruce Catton Prize of the Society of American Historians for lifetime achievement. Davis is also the recipient of the 2004 Kidger Award from the New England History Teachers Association given to honor his devotion to teaching. Currently, Davis is working on The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation to conclude his magisterial series. Davis received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1956. He served as President of the Organization of American Historians for the 1988-1989 term.

David Spatz, Assistant Director

David Spatz holds a B.A. in history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Ph.D. in US history from the University of Chicago. He has taught US, urban, and African-American history at DePaul University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the University of Chicago. He was managing editor of Chicago Studies, wrote entries in the Encyclopedia of African American History, and is currently revising his manuscript about expressway planning, politics and impact for publication. He has presented his work at the Newberry Library, Chicago History Museum, and at several national conferences. While at the University of Chicago, he was the coordinator of the undergraduate history program, co-organized "The Politics of Display: America's Past in Three Dimensions. A Symposium in Honor of Neil Harris," and worked for Career Advising & Planning Services. Prior to graduate school, he worked for a management consulting firm that specialized in minority business development and workforce diversity.

Thomas Thurston, Education Director

Thomas Thurston holds a B.A. in American Studies from the University of California at Santa Cruz and an MPhl in American Studies from Yale University. Prior to coming to the Gilder Lehrman Center he served as the Project Director of the New Deal Network, an educational website developed by the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute and the Institute for Learning Technologies at Teachers College, Columbia University. For his work developing the New Deal Network he received the first annual award for "Best Multimedia Resource" from the American Association for History and Computing and a "Best of the Humanities on the Web" citation from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Tom has led week-long NEH workshops for K-12 teachers, has acted as a consulting historian for several Teaching American History programs, and has served as a curriculum developer for WNET's Educational Technologies Department, including the documentary series "The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow" and "Slavery and the Making of America."

Visiting Fellows

Postdoctoral and Faculty Fellows

Oscar de la Torre, Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina-Charlotte (Fall 2014)
Leaving Behind the Big Snake: A History of Black Amazonia, 1850-1950"

Ashutosh Kumar, Assistant Professor, Dehli University (October 2014)
"Politics of Care: Provisions on Ships Carrying Indian Coolies to the Sugar Islands"

Christine Whyte, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Bayreuth University (October 15 to November 15, 2014)
"Anti-slavery, child labour and the family home in 19th century Sierra Leone"

Vitor Izecksohn, Associate Professor, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (January 6, 2015 to February 10, 2015)
"Two Wars in the Americas: Recruitment, Citizenship, and State- Building in the United States and Brazil, 1861-1870,"

Michael LeMahieu, Associate Professor, Clemson University (Spring 2015)
"Civil War, Civil Rights: Genres of Memory in American Literature after 1954"

Elizabeth Wright, Associate Professor, University of Georgia (March 2015)
"An Epic of Slavery and Freedom: Rediscovering Juan Latino, a Black African Educator in Renaissance Spain"

Yuko Miki, Assistant Professor, Fordham University (May 2015)
"Brazilian Atlantic: Slavery and Freedom in the Age of Abolition"

Modern Day Slavery and Human Trafficking Fellow

Rebecca S. Prichard, Lecturer in Theatre Studies, Essex University (September 1, 2014-May 31, 2015)
"Carnevale, a play mixing slavery in 18th C Venice and modern trafficking"