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Mon, 05.25.1936

David Levering Lewis, Historian, and Professor born

David Levering Lewis

*David Levering Lewis was born on this date in 1936.  He is a Black author, historian and professor of history.  

Lewis was born in Little Rock, Arkansas to a middle-class Black family. His father John Henry Lewis, Sr. had graduated from Morris Brown College in Atlanta, and went on to Yale Divinity School, becoming its first Black graduate. He also earned an M.A. in sociology from the University of Chicago. He became principal of Dunbar Junior and Senior High School and Junior College in Little Rock. Lewis' mother taught high school math in the school.  While the family lived in Little Rock, the young Lewis attended parochial school.

Lewis attended Wilberforce Preparatory School and Xenia High School after his father became Dean of the Theological School at Wilberforce University . When the family moved to Atlanta after his father became President of Morris Brown College, Lewis attended Booker T. Washington High School in his junior year. He gained early admission at age fifteen to Fisk University . He graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1956. Lewis briefly attended the University of Michigan Law School but left to attend Columbia University, where he earned his M.A. in history in 1959. He went to the London School of Economics for his doctorate, earning his Ph.D. in 1962 in modern European and French history.  

In 1961-1962, Lewis served in the United States Army as a psychiatric technician and private first class in Landstuhl, Germany.  Lewis has three children from his first marriage.  In 1963, Lewis lectured at the University of Ghana on medieval African history. After returning to the United States, Lewis taught at Morgan State University, the University of Notre Dame, Howard University, and the University of the District of Columbia from 1970 to 1980 as associate and full professor. Lewis was professor of history at University of California at San Diego from 1980 to 1984.  In 1985, Lewis joined Rutgers University as the Martin Luther King Jr. Professor of History, where he wrote his Pulitzer Prize-winning two volume-biography of W. E. B. Du Bois and finished writing The Race to Fashoda: European Colonialism and African Resistance in the Scramble for Africa during his 18-year tenure.  In spring semester 2001, Lewis served as distinguished visiting professor in Harvard's history department.  

In 2003, Lewis was appointed and currently serves as the Julius Silver University Professor and Professor of History at New York University.  He has received fellowships from the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, the National Humanities Center, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the American Philosophical Society, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Lewis is the author of the first academic biography of Martin Luther King, Jr., which was published in 1970, less than two years after the subject's assassination. His Prisoners of Honor: The Dreyfus Affair was published in 1974; The Bicentennial History of the District of Columbia was published in 1976; and When Harlem Was in Vogue in 1980.

Lewis is a board member of the magazine The Crisis, published by the NAACP. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.  He was an Ellen Maria Gorrissen Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin, Germany, in spring 2008. President Barack Obama awarded him the 2009 National Humanities Medal at the White House on February 25, 2010.

The author of eight books and editor of two more, Lewis is a professor of history at New York University, concentrating on comparative history with special focus on twentieth-century United States social history and civil rights. His interests include nineteenth-century Africa, twentieth-century France, and Islamic Spain.  

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