Thomas C. Holt

James Westfall Thompson Professor of American and African American History and the College
Affiliated Faculty, Center for Latin American Studies
Faculty Affiliate, Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture
PhD 1973 Yale University

Social Science Research Building, room 213 – Office
(773) 702-8389 – Office telephone
(773) 702-7550 – Fax

Mailing Address

The University of Chicago
Department of History
1126 East 59th Street, Mailbox 64
Chicago, IL 60637


Field Specialties

United States; African American, Southern, and British-Caribbean history


Currently the James Westfall Thompson Professor of American and African American History at the University of Chicago, Tom Holt has a longstanding professional interest in comparing the experiences of people in the African diaspora, particularly those in the Caribbean and the United States. His study of Jamaica's economy, politics, and society after slavery, The Problem of Freedom: Race, Labor, and Politics in Jamaica and Britain, 1832-1938, was published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 1992; in 1995, it was awarded the Elsa Goveia Prize by the Association of Caribbean Historians. In 1978, the Southern Historical Association awarded the Charles S. Sydnor Prize to Prof. Holt's previous work on the comparable period in the American South after emancipation, Black Over White: Negro Political Leadership in South Carolina During Reconstruction (University of Illinois Press).

Prof. Holt was a fellow of both the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars from 1987 to 1988. He received the Presidential Initiatives Award from the University of Michigan from 1987 to 1989. From 1990 to 1995, Prof. Holt held a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship, and from 1995 to 1996 was a fellow in the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.

Prof. Holt has been a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Southern History (1983–86), Slavery & Abolition (1986–89), and American Historical Review (1990–93). Other honors bestowed upon Prof. Holt include his election to the Board of Directors of the American Council of Learned Societies from January 1999 to May 2002, his appointment by President Clinton to the Council of the National Endowment for the Humanities from July 1994 to 1997, and his presidency of the American Historical Association from 1994 to 1995. Professor Holt, who holds a PhD in American studies from Yale University, has taught at Howard University, Harvard University, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Michigan.


Prof. Holt's most recent book, The Problem of Race in the Twenty-first Century (Harvard University Press), draws on his thirty years of teaching and research to explore the future of race relations in America. It has foremost among its concerns "the contradictions and incoherence of a system that idealizes black celebrities in politics, popular culture, and sports even as it diminishes the average African American citizen.[...] Understanding race as ideology, he describes the processes of consumerism and commodification that have transformed, but not necessarily improved, the place of black citizens in our society."

Prof. Holt is currently working on a general history of the African American people.