Alex Lichtenstein

Associate Professor, Department of History

Interim Editor, American Historical Review

Department of History

IU, IU Bloomington

Full Biography

My work centers on the intersection of labor history and the struggle for racial justice in societies shaped by white supremacy, particularly the U.S. South (1865-1954) and 20th-century South Africa. My first book, Twice the Work of Free Labor examines the role of convict leasing and chain gangs in the remaking of the American South in the half century after the Civil War. Subsequently, I have written extensively about race relations in the labor movement, interracial agrarian radicalism, early civil rights struggles, and the impact of anticommunism on the labor and civil rights movements. My current book project, Trouble in Paradise: Labor Radicalism, Race Relations, and Anticommunism in Florida, 1940-1960, explores the interplay of the civil rights and labor movements in Florida during the 1940s. In 2000, I traveled to South Africa on a Fulbright Fellowship, where I became interested in comparative U.S./South African history and began research on the history of black and "mixed" trade unions under apartheid. This work will form the basis of a future book on South African labor relations and the state, tentatively entitled Making Apartheid Work. Currently I am curating an exhibit of photographs taken by Margaret Bourke-White in South Africa in 1950. The exhibit opens at IU in Fall 2013, and then will travel to Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Honors and Awards

  • Fulbright Senior Specialist, University of Genoa (2010) and University of Belgrade (2008)
  • Aluka Award for Innovative Teaching on Southern Africa (2008-2009)
  • American Philosophical Society Sabbatical Fellowship (2006)
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Writing Stipend (2005)
  • Fulbright research/teaching award for South Africa (2000)
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship (1994-95)

Research Interests

  • U.S. labor history
  • South African history
  • Civil Rights
  • Communism and Anticommunism
  • U.S. South


  • B.A. at Yale University, 1984
  • M.A. at University of Pennsylvania, 1985
  • Ph.D. at University of Pennsylvania, 1990

Courses Taught

  • South African History
  • The Scottsboro Case: Race, Class and Region in the 1930s
  • U.S. Labor History
  • Great Depression and World War II
  • The Cold War and Civil Rights


  • Twice the Work of Free Labor: The Political Economy of Convict Labor in the New South (Verso, 1996).
  • Editor, "Rethinking Agrarian Labor in the U.S. South," a Special Issue of Journal of Peasant Studies 35 (October 2008).
  • Introduction to reprint edition of Howard Kester, Revolt Among the Sharecroppers (1936) (University of Tennessee Press, 1997), pp. 9-66.
  • "The Other Civil Rights Movement and the Problem of Southern Exceptionalism," Journal of the Historical Society 11(September 2011): 351-377.
  • "Marikana, Part II: Looking For Answers to a South African Massacre,” Los Angeles Review of Books, January 4, 2013,
  • "Making Apartheid Work: African Trade Unions and the 1953 Native Labour (Settlement of Disputes) Act in South Africa," Journal of African History 46 (July 2005): 293-314.
  • "'The Hope for White and Black'?: Race, Labour and the State in South Africa and the United States, 1924-1956," Journal of Southern African Studies 30 (March 2004):133-55.