Last modified on 28 August 2014, at 03:49

David Levering Lewis

David Levering Lewis
Born (1936-05-25) May 25, 1936 (age 78)
Little Rock, Arkansas, U.S.
Nationality American
Fields History
Institutions New York University
Alma mater London School of Economics
Columbia University
Fisk University
Notable awards Pulitzer Prize (two times)

David Levering Lewis (born May 25, 1936) is the Julius Silver University Professor and Professor of History at New York University. He is twice winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography, for part one and part two of his biography of W. E. B. Du Bois (in 1994 and 2001, respectively). He is the first author to win two Pulitzer Prizes for biography for back-to-back volumes.[1]

The author of eight books and editor of two more, Lewis's field is 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.


Lewis was born in Little Rock, Arkansas. His father, John Henry Lewis, Sr., graduated from Morris Brown College, was the first African American to graduate from Yale Divinity School and received an M.A. in sociology from the University of Chicago, and was principal of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, and later served two terms as President of Morris Brown College. His mother taught high school math. Lewis attended parochial school in Little Rock, then Wilberforce Preparatory School and Xenia High School in Ohio. When the family moved to Atlanta, Georgia, Lewis attended Booker T. Washington High School in his junior year until his early admission at age fifteen to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. 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. In 1962, Lewis was awarded a Ph.D. in modern European and French history from the London School of Economics.[2][3]

In 1961-1962, Lewis served in the United States Army as a psychiatric technician and private first class in Landstuhl, Germany.[4]

In 1963, he lectured on medieval history at the University of Ghana. 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. His Prisoners of Honor: The Dreyfus Affair appeared in 1974; The Bicentennial History of the District of Columbia appeared in 1976; and When Harlem Was in Vogue in 1980. Lewis was professor of history at University of California at San Diego before joining Rutgers University in 1985 as the Martin Luther King Jr. Professor of History. Lewis produced his Pulitzer Prize-winning biographies of W. E. B. Du Bois during his 18-year tenure at Rutgers. He completed research for his first Du Bois volume and finished writing The Race to Fashoda: European Colonialism and African Resistance in the Scramble for Africa, which appeared in 1987. In spring semester 2001, Lewis was distinguished visiting professor in Harvard's history department. In 2003, Lewis was appointed and is currently the Julius Silver University Professor and Professor of History at New York University.

Lewis is the author of the first academic biography of Martin Luther King, Jr., appearing less than two years after the subject's assassination. Besides the two Pulitzer Prizes for his biographies of W. E. B. Du Bois, he is also the 1994 winner of the Bancroft Prize and the Francis Parkman Prize. 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. He is a former trustee of the National Humanities Center, former commissioner of the National Portrait Gallery, and a former senator of Phi Beta Kappa.

Lewis appeared as a historical expert in the 1999 film New York: A Documentary Film, directed by Ric Burns for PBS. He was president of the Society of American Historians in 2002, and 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.[2][3] and was an Ellen Maria Gorrissen Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin, Germany, in spring 2008. President Barack Obama awarded the 2009 National Humanities Medal at the White House on February 25, 2010. Lewis delivered the inaugural convocation lecture, September 19, 2010, at New York University Abu Dhabi.

Lewis lives in Manhattan and Stanfordville, New York with his wife, Ruth Ann Stewart, Clinical Professor of Public Policy at New York University. Dr. Lewis has three adult children from his first marriage to Sharon Lynn Lewis: Eric Levering Lewis, Allison Lillian Lewis and Jason Bradwell Lewis along with a son-in-law Michael John Wilson and two granddaughters Marissa Lynn Wilson and Natalie Elise Wilson. Lewis also has a stepdaughter, Allegra Stewart.

Books by David Levering LewisEdit


External linksEdit