Assistant Professor of US History and the College
Faculty Affiliate, Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture
Faculty Affiliate, Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality
Democracy Initiative Faculty Working Group
PhD'11 Yale University
Department of History
University of Chicago
1126 E. 59th Street
Chicago IL 60637
Twentieth-century United States, violence, militarization, women and gender, cultural history, race and racism
A historian of the present, Kathleen Belew's award-winning research, writing, and teaching center on the place of violence in American life and culture. She is interested ideas of the end of the world and what they reveal about identity and belonging, conservatism, community, and the future.
Belew’s first book, Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America, uses previously classified FBI documents and vivid personal testimonies to explore how white power activists created a vast and influential social movement through a shared, post-Vietnam story about betrayal by the government. Belew excavates the deliberate disappearance of this movement that allowed it to resurface in the present moment. She has spoken about this project and its findings in a variety of media, including Fresh Air, The Rachel Maddow Show, The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell, AC 360 with Anderson Cooper, Frontline, PBS NewsHour, It’s Been a Minute, and All Things Considered. Her research has feature prominently in documentaries such as Homegrown Hate: The War Among Us (ABC) and Documenting Hate: New American Nazis (Frontline) and additional forthcoming projects.
In addition to her scholarly publications, Belew has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN.com, the Daily Beast, and Dissent. She and her research have been featured in outlets such as Esquire, Time, and the Chicago Tribune. She is co-editor with Ramón A. Gutiérrez of A Field Guide to White Supremacy (University of California Press, forthcoming), which also features several pieces of her writing.
Belew has received fellowships from the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University (2019-20), Northwestern University, and Rutgers University. Her research has won generous support from benefactors such as the Chauncey and Marion Deering McCormick Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Jacob K. Javits Foundation. She holds M.A., M.Phil, and doctorate degrees in American Studies from Yale University. At University of Chicago, she is a faculty affiliate at the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture; the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality; and the Democracy Initiative.
Home, at the End of the World: A History of the Present (in progress).
Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, April 2018, paperback 2019).
Field Guide to the History of Hate (under contract, University of California Press).
Co-editor with Ramón Gutierrez.
“‘A Model Aryan Wife and Mother:’ Women and the History of the White Power Movement,” under review, Journal of American History.
“‘A War for the Survival of Our People:’ Conspiracy and Combat in the White Power Movement, 1983-1995,” in Conspiracy/Theory, Joseph P. Masco and Lisa Wedeen (eds), (Under review.)
“Lynching and Power in the United States: Southern, Western, and National Vigilante Violence from Early America to the Present,” History Compass 12, no. 1 (January 2014), 84-99.
—“The Right Way to Understand White Nationalist Terrorism,” The New York Times, August 4, 2019, A19.
—“The Christchurch Massacre and the White Power Movement,” Dissent, March 17, 2019.
—“History of Hate: Pittsburgh Shooting Was Straight Out of White Power Movement,” Daily Beast, November 2, 2018.
—“The History of White Power,” The New York Times, April 18, 2018, A27.
—“Veterans and White Supremacy,” The New York Times, April 16, 2014, A25.
Selected media and interviews
—At PBS.org, stream the full 55-minute PBS Frontline/ProPublica documentary, “Documenting Hate: New American Nazis” (November 2018), for which Kathleen Belew provided expert commentary
—On NPR’s Fresh Air, listen to Belew’s discussion with Terry Gross about the Vietnam War–era roots of today’s alt-right activism, and how recent “lone wolf” terrorists—like Dylan Roof—are in fact deeply enmeshed in the white power movement
—On NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday, listen to Belew discuss leaked emails in which Trump administration lackey Stephen Miller encouraged far-right website Breitbart to promote white supremacist ideas
—Read a New York Times report, informed by discussion with Belew, on the constantly shifting symbols, memes, and gestures (such as the “OK” sign) used by hate groups
—On the Al Jazeera program Fault Lines, watch Belew explain the white supremacist ideology that connects recent domestic terrorist attacks in Pittsburgh and El Paso, and how racist discourse has seeped into the mainstream
—Watch Belew explain the ideology behind the El Paso shooting in an interview with PBS NewsHour
—On NPR’s All Things Considered, listen to Belew discuss how old racist books and other artifacts influence white nationalists of the digital age—including the perpetrator of the El Paso mass shooting
—Listen to Belew discuss the history of the white power movement—and what to do after El Paso—on The Nation podcast Start Making Sense
—At Five Books, discover Belew’s top recommended books about white supremacy
—At Public Books, read Belew’s in-depth conversation with historian and fellow HUP author Monica Muñoz Martinez
—On Radio New Zealand’s Sunday Morning, listen to Belew provide valuable context—earlier incarnations of the white power movement—for the violence in Christchurch
—On KPFA (Pacifica Radio)’s Letters and Politics, listen to Belew discuss the manifesto left by the Christchurch mosque terrorist as a political document comparable to those by Dylann Roof, Anders Breivik, and “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski
—On NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday, listen to Belew explain how white supremacist ideology spreads
—On PBS NewsHour, watch Belew discuss how the massacres at two Christchurch, New Zealand mosques are an example of malignant growth in extremist anti-immigrant and white supremacist ideology
—Watch Belew respond to the New Zealand mosque attacks in a panel discussion on CBC’s The National
—At Dissent, read Belew’s analysis of the New Zealand mosque killings as only the latest example of work by a transnational movement that wants to foment race war
—Listen to Belew discuss radical white terrorism on The Intercept’s podcast, Intercepted
—On the Jacobin podcast The Dig, listen to Belew discuss the ideology behind the October 2018 Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh
—Watch Belew’s interview with Democracy Now! on the long history of violence simmering below the August 2017 white supremacist actions in Charlottesville, VA
—On Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien, watch Belew explain how the modern white power activists came to declare war on the state—and how their strategies parallel those of Islamist terrorists
—On CBS News, watch Belew chart the path of radical white supremacists from the Vietnam War onwards
—On NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday, listen to Belew explain how acts of terrorism by seemingly isolated, misanthropic white American men are in fact part of a committed and organized white power movement decades in the making
—On This American Life, listen to Belew discuss [at 34:10] how the white power movement adopted the “leaderless resistance” model of cell terrorism