Alex Lichtenstein

Professor, Department of History

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, in both the US and South Africa. My most recent book, Margaret Bourke-White and the Dawn of Apartheid, is based on a photography exhibited I curated at IU and in South Africa . I have two research projects in the works; one,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. The other examines the history of Black workers and industrial relations in twentieth-century South Africa, and is tentatively entitled Making Apartheid Work.

Honors and Awards

  • Visiting Research Fellow, International Research Center on Work and Human Lifecycle in Global History, Humboldt University, Berlin (2014).

  • Directeur d’études invité, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), Paris (2013).

  • 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


  • Alex Lichtenstein and Rick Halpern, Margaret Bourke-White and the Dawn of Apartheid in South Africa (Indiana University Press 2016).

  • Co-Editor (with Lisa Brock and Van Gosse), “The Global Anti-Apartheid Movement,” Radical History Review 119 (Spring 2014).

  • “'A Measure of Democracy': Works Committees, Black Workers, and Industrial Citizenship in South Africa, 1973-1989,” South African Historical Journal, 67 (June 2015): 113-38

  • "The Other Civil Rights Movement and the Problem of Southern Exceptionalism," Journal of the Historical Society 11(September 2011): 351-377
  • "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.
  • Twice the Work of Free Labor: The Political Economy of Convict Labor in the New South (Verso, 1996).