Honorary degree citation: David Levering Lewis
Presented by Victoria Aghababian Wicks ’74, P’04, Trustee
Conferred by President Hansen
Wicks: President Hansen, I am honored to present David Levering Lewis.
In this moment, when our collective future hinges on the ability of nations and peoples to understand the values, beliefs and experiences of other nations and peoples, we honor a scholar whose explorations of the past across three continents and many centuries provide the balanced perspective from which we can comprehend our world.
David Levering Lewis is one of the leading historians of our time. The Julius Silver University Professor and professor of history at New York University, he is the author of seven books and the editor of two readers. His work focuses on the tumultuous 19th and 20th centuries, especially at the intersections of race and class. His research interests range from the Dreyfus affair in 19th-century France to the U.S. civil rights movement, from African resistance to European colonizers to the flowering of African American art and culture in Harlem in the 1920s. Most recently he has explored the confluence of Islam, Christianity and Judaism in eighth-century Spain. The broad reach of Dr. Lewis’ work in comparative history gives voice and agency to all the players in the human drama.
For Dr. Lewis, the lives of individuals are the windows to historical periods. His biography of Martin Luther King Jr. and his monumental two-volume biography of W.E.B. Du Bois provide unflinching, masterfully crafted, critical assessments of the lives and times of these spiritual and intellectual leaders, the contradictory century in which they lived and the legacies they shaped.
For his inexhaustible attention to the historical record, for the clarity of his prose, and for his insights into the complexity of the human experience, I present David Levering Lewis for the degree Doctor of Humane Letters.
Hansen: David Levering Lewis, you have challenged assumptions and deepened our understanding of our shared past in your learned explorations of individual, American, and world histories.
Therefore, by the authority vested in me by the Board of Trustees, I hereby confer upon you the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities which here and everywhere pertain to this degree.