New York University

From the 2020 Award for Scholarly Distinction citation in the 2021 Annual Meeting Awards Ceremony booklet

David Levering Lewis is Julius Silver University Professor and professor of history at New York University. His scholarly work ranges over millennia and continents. In his eight monographs he has explored a wide variety of themes and individuals, in many instances synthesizing a massive amount of material and bringing to each project a fresh, bold perspective. He has received accolades in the form of a MacArthur Fellowship (1999–2004), the Bancroft Prize in American History, two Pulitzer Prizes (for his two-volume biography of W. E. B. Du Bois), and the Parkman Prize, among other awards. In 2009 President Barack Obama presented him with the National Humanities Medal.

Since 2003 Lewis has taught at New York University. He is perhaps best known for his biography of W. E. B. Du Bois, which is widely regarded as the standard, definitive study of this remarkable scholar-cum-activist. (Lewis’s winning two Pulitzers in back-to-back years in the same category—Biography—is a feat that has not been matched before or since.) At the same time, his scholarly reach is truly impressive, for he has made significant scholarly interventions in a number of seemingly disparate fields—for example, early 20th-century French anti-Semitism, African resistance to European colonialism, the Harlem Renaissance, and the life of Republican politician Wendell Willkie.

Lewis’s erudition, capacious scholarly reach, and brilliant contributions to the literature establish him as one of today’s most distinguished historians. He has enlightened audiences in and outside the academy on the history and meaning of ideologies, such as racism, and on the significance of social movements around the world through time.