Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

Don’t Know Much About History? Gilder Lehrman’s Jim Basker Is Trying to Change That



When it comes to teaching American history, James G. Basker is known for being able to bring the stories, facts, and events of the past to life.

As president of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History since 1997, Basker has overseen the development of history education initiatives nationwide—including history high schools, teacher seminars, traveling exhibitions, digital archives, and the National History Teacher of the Year Award program.

He has also served as project director for several history exhibitions at the New York Historical Society, including “Alexander Hamilton: The Man Who Made Modern America” (2004–2005), and “Lincoln in His Own Words: An Intimate View of Our Greatest President” (2009).

Educated at Harvard, Cambridge, and Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, Basker went on to teach at Harvard for seven years before coming to New York. His publications include “Amazing Grace: Poems about Slavery, 1660–1810” (2002), “Early American Abolitionists” (2005), and “American Antislavery Writing: Colonial Beginnings to Emancipation” (2012), as well as scores of essays and educational booklets on various topics in English and American history and literature.

Scroll down to read our Q&A with this history enthusiast and esteemed teacher. — David Bruce Smith, founder, Grateful American™ Foundation and Hope Katz Gibbs, executive producer, Grateful American™ Series