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 examined 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 U.S. labor movement, interracial agrarian radicalism, early civil rights struggles, and the impact of anticommunism on the labor and civil rights movements, in both the U.S. and South Africa. I have recently published two books: Margaret Bourke-White and the Dawn of Apartheid, based on a photography exhibited I curated at IU and in South Africa, and Marked, Unmarked, Remembered: A Geography of American Memory, a collaboration with my brother, photojournalist Andrew Lichtenstein. My current research projects focus on South African labor history: one examines the history of Black workers and industrial relations in twentieth-century South Africa, and is tentatively entitled Making Apartheid Work; the other is a short study of the 1973 Durban strikes.
I also have a number of funded public history projects in the works. With my American Studies colleagues Phoebe Wolfskill and Rasul Mowatt, I am co-curating an installation of artworks focused on antilynching campaigns. And, with a grant from the US State Department, I am planning a civil rights tour of the U.S. South with a group of students from the University of Novi Sad, Serbia. To be honest, at this stage in my career, I find this kind of public and community-engaged work far more rewarding than writing for an academic audience.