175 Makers of History: Louis R. Harlan

Louis R. Harlan 43C 86H
Pulitzer Prize–Winning Author

Louis Harlan

Louis R. Harlan, one of the nation's foremost scholars on the history of race relations, wrote the definitive two-volume biography of Booker T. Washington. At the time, Washington was still an unpopular figure, vilified for his accommodationist approach to race relations in the early part of the twentieth century.

As a graduate student at Johns Hopkins, Harlan met the historian John Hope Franklin, who encouraged him to study Southern race relations. Harlan's first book, Separate and Unequal (1958), explored racial inequities in Southern schools. He became a member of the NAACP in the 1950s when he also joined civil rights marches and rallies alongside Martin Luther King Jr.

Harlan was the first person to serve simultaneously as president of the three major scholarly associations in his field -- the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, and the Southern Historical Association.