Professor George Lewis

Professor of American History

George LewisContact details

Personal details


I received my PhD from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, where I also taught briefly before taking up an academic post at the University of Nottingham. I joined the University of Leicester's School of History and Centre for American Studies in 2002, and was Director of CAS from 2009 to 2015. I have been a Visiting Research Student at the Carter G. Woodson Institute, University of Virginia, a Visiting Fellow at the Rothermere American Institute, Oxford, and have held funded fellowships at a number of research libraries including the Roosevelt Presidential Library, New York. Major grant successes include the AHRC's Research Leave scheme, in support of a project on Massive Resistance, and the British Academy's Research Development Award, for a project on Un-Americans and Un-Americanism. I have long maintained strong links with the British Association for American Studies (BAAS), having been elected to its Executive for two full terms (2007 and 2010) and served as Chair of both its Conference and Publications Sub-committees. I am an elected member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of American Studies. In 2015, I was elected a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy Research.


My teaching focuses on the modern United States. In particular, it revolves around the research I have undertaken in two areas: race relations, civil rights, racism and white supremacy; and, secondly, on American radicalism, anti-radicalism and anti-Communism. Thus, I have taught courses on Race & Ethnicity in American Life, the US Civil Rights Movement, American Slavery, the Rhetoric and Reality of White Supremacy, and McCarthyism and Domestic Anti-Communism.

Examples of modules I teach:

  • McCarthy's America: Domestic Anti-Communism in the USA, 1830-1990
  • The Civil Rights Movement: 1945-1968

Administrative responsibilities

Head of the School of History, International Relations and Politics
Member of College Management Board
Member of the University Executive Board
Member of Senate




Research themes

My research falls into two main areas. Much of my work has focused on race relations in the South of the United States. In particular, I have concentrated on the ideology of southern segregationists and white supremacists, especially the way in which segregationists sought to develop responses to civil rights activity after the Second World War in the period known by contemporaries and scholars alike as "Massive Resistance." That research has included a detailed examination of the ways in which anti-communism was deployed as a weapon of white supremacy in the 1950s and 1960s, and of the various ways in which the Cold War impacted upon the southern campaign to maintain segregation, which resulted in my first monograph, The White South and the Red Menace. Having been successful in the competition for research leave funding from the AHRC, I completed a second book, Massive Resistance: the White Response to the Civil Rights Movement. My interest in the ideology of segregation has also developed into a study of the ways in which a number of the South’s white supremacists sought to forge links with a national audience, not least through their attempts to plug into the emerging mood of national conservatism at the end of the 1960s. This, I have argued, represented the segregationists’ “northern strategy”. In 2007, I spoke on the subject of race relations to the directors and cast of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Noughts and Crosses, and have been a regular contributor to Leicester’s celebration of black history month.

I am also interested in the long history of the term “un-American.” I received a three-year British Academy Research Development Award [BARDA] for a project on “Un-Americans: Ideological Dissent, Patriotic Subversion and Isolating the “Other” in the USA.” That funding has sustained a number of related projects designed to produce the first sustained history of the “un-American” and those who were labelled “un-Americans,” from the origins of the term in the late eighteenth century to its twentieth century incarnations. That project has included an international conference, “Un-Americans and the Un-American: From 1776 to 9/11,” which took place at the University of Leicester in 2010, the “Un-American” Special Issue of the Journal of American Studies, a number of chapters and articles, and a forthcoming monograph.

Current research projects

My current research project is funded by a three year British Academy Research Development Award [BARDA] (entitled Un-Americans: Ideological Dissent, Patriotic Subversion and Isolating the “Other” in the USA). By using a series of chronological case studies, it will produce the first sustained history of the “un-American” and those who were labelled “un-Americans,” from the origins of the term in the late eighteenth century to its twentieth century incarnations. The project will culminate in an international conference and a monograph.


My primary areas of supervision expertise are: US race relations and southern politics; the civil rights movement; white supremacy and resistance; the “new conservatism”; and competing notions of Americanism and un-Americanism. All of my PhD students have completed their projects successfully, including those who have gone on to full-time academic posts, such as Dr Emma Folwell. I have successfully mentored students to full AHRC funding through the Midlands 3Cities consortium, including Scott Weightman.

The Leicester University library now has an impressive array of primary source material to support research into such areas, including the 18 reels of microfilm that make up the NAACP Papers (Part 20) White Resistance and Reprisals, 1956-1965, a microfilm collection of The FBI Files on Malcolm X, and the published Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr.

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