Earl Lewis

University of Michigan
Academic administrator; Historian
Leadership, Policy, and Communications
Educational and Academic Leadership


Earl Lewis is the Thomas C. Holt Distinguished University Professor of history, Afroamerican American and African Studies, and public policy, and the inaugural director of the Center for Social Solutions at the University of Michigan.

He became the sixth President of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in March 2013 and served in that role until March 2018.   Under his guidance, the foundation reaffirmed its commitment to the humanities, the arts, and higher education by emphasizing the importance of continuity and change.

A noted social historian, and immediate past-President of the Organization of American Historians (OAH), Mr. Lewis has held faculty appointments at the University of California at Berkeley (1984–89), and the University of Michigan (1989–2004). During his previous time at Michigan he served as director of the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies (1990-93) and Dean, Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies and Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, Graduate Studies (1998-2004). In addition, he held the title of the Elsa Barkley Brown and Robin D.G. Kelley Collegiate Professor of history and Afroamerican and African Studies.

Prior to joining The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Lewis served as Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Asa Griggs Candler Professor of History and African American Studies at Emory University. As Provost, Lewis led academic affairs and academic priority setting for the university. He also championed the importance of diversifying the academy, enhancing graduate education, re-visioning the liberal arts, exploring the role of digital tools for learning, and connecting universities to their communities.

He is the author and co-editor of eight books, including Our Compelling Interests: The Value of Diversity for Democracy and a Prosperous Society (with Nancy Cantor, Princeton University Press, 2016), The African American Urban Experience:  Perspectives from the Colonial Period to the Present (with Joe William Trotter and Tera W. Hunter, Palgrave Macmillan, 2004); Defending Diversity: Affirmative Action at the University of Michigan (with Jeffrey S. Lehman and Patricia Gurin, University of Michigan Press, 2004); Love on Trial:  An American Scandal in Black and White (with Heidi Ardizzone, WW Norton, 2001); the award-winning To Make Our World Anew:  A History of African Americans (with Robin D.G. Kelley, Oxford University Press, 2000); In Their Own Interests:  Race, Class and Power in 20th Century Norfolk (University of California Press, 1991); as well as the 11-volume The Young Oxford History of African Americans (with Robin D.G. Kelley, Oxford University Press, 1995–1997); and the award-winning book series American Crossroads (University of California Press). More recently, he has co-edited, with Nancy Cantor, the important new Princeton University Press book series on diversity and democracy, Our Compelling Interests.

A native of Norfolk, Virginia, Mr. Lewis earned an undergraduate degree in history and psychology from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, with honors, and a Ph.D. in history from the University of Minnesota.  He has been a board member of several journals, companies, nonprofits and governmental entities, ranging from the American Historical Review to the American Council of Learned Societies and the Center for Research Libraries to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI).  He is currently a member of the Council on Foreign Relations; board chair and regent, Concordia College—Moorhead and a trustee of the Educational Testing Service. Lewis has been a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 2008.

In addition to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and election as president of the OAH, he has been the recipient of several honorary degrees and other honors and awards. In March 2018 the Detroit Symphony Orchestra recognized his contribution to the celebration of classical music with the Classical Roots Award.  In 2019 both Wayne State University and Bowdoin College awarded him honorary degrees, as had Berea College and California State University-Fullerton in 2018. In 2017, Mr. Lewis was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by both Clark University and Southwestern University. The previous year Carnegie Mellon University honored him with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. He was previously awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the Rutgers University-Newark, Dartmouth College, and the University of Cincinnati (2015); he also received an honorary Doctor of Humanities from Concordia College in 2002. His alma mater, the University of Minnesota recognized him with the Outstanding Achievement Award in 2001 and its College of Liberal Arts presented him with the Alumni of Notable Achievement Award in 2018; and he received the Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Award from the University of Michigan in 1999 and the Faculty Recognition Award in 1992. 



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