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Kevin Boyle

William Smith Mason Professor of American History / Department Chair

Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1990
Curriculum Vitae


Geographic Field(s):  American History, Since 1900

Thematic Field(s):  Economic and Labor History; African Diaspora and African American History; Legal and Criminal History; Urban History

Principal Research Interest(s):  Twentieth Century United States


Kevin Boyle (Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1990) is an historian of the twentieth century United States, with a particular interest in modern American social movements. Visit Boyle’s website here.

His most recent book is The Shattering: America in the 1960s, a narrative history of the decade whose conflicts shattered America’s postwar order and divide us still. His other books include The UAW and the Heyday of American Liberalism, 1945-1968; Muddy Boots and Ragged Aprons: Images of Working-Class Detroit, 1900-1930 (with Victoria Getis); Organized Labor and American Politics, 1894-1994; and Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age, which received the National Book Award for nonfiction, The Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Prize, and the Simon Weisenthal Center’s Tolerance Book Award. It was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and was selected for community-wide reading programs in the Detroit metropolitan area and the state of Michigan. He has published essays and reviews in The Atlantic, The Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Detroit Free Press, and Chicago and Cobblestone magazines. He has held fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Fulbright Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and the Andrew Carnegie Corporation.

Boyle is currently at work on The Splendid Dead, a micro-history of political extremism and repression in the early twentieth century.  He teaches undergraduate courses on modern United States history, the civil rights movement, and racial violence and graduate courses in twentieth century American history, working-class history, and narrative history.


  • The UAW and the Heyday of American Liberalism, 1945-1968 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995; paperback edition 1998).
  • Muddy Boots and Ragged Aprons: Images of Working Class Life in Detroit, 1900-1930 (with Victoria L. Getis) (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1997).
  • "The Kiss: Racial and Gender Conflict in a 1950s Automobile Factory," Journal of American History 84 (September 1997), 496-523.
  • Organized Labor and American Politics, 1894-1994: The Labor-Liberal Alliance (editor) (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998).
  • "Work Places: The Economy and the Changing Landscape of Labor, 1900-2000," in Harvard Sitkoff, ed., Perspectives on Modern America: Making Sense of the Twentieth Century (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 101-124.
  • "The Price of Peace: Vietnam, the Pound, and the Crisis of the American Empire,"   Diplomatic History 27 (January 2003), 37-72.
  • Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2004; paperback edition, 2005; audiobook, Recorded Books, 2006).
  • “The Fire Last Time,” The Washington Post, July 29, 2007 [reprinted in The (Tokyo) Daily Yomiuri, The Irish Times (Dublin)].
  • “Requiem: Detroit and the Fate of Urban America,” Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective, May 2009.
  • “Twenty-Nine Helmets: Government Power and the Promise of Security,” in Steven Conn, ed., To Promote the General Welfare: The Case for Big Government (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 85-101.
  • “The Rouge” and “Chevy in the Hole,” in Andrew Lichtenstein and Alex Lichtenstein, eds., Marked, Unmarked, Remembered: A Photographic Geography of American Historical Memory (Blacksburg: West Virginia University Press, 2017), pp. 54-61.
  • “Why I’ll Keep Protesting,” Small Blows Against Encroaching Totalitarianism (San Francisco: McSweeney’s Books, 2018), pp. 73-75.
  • “A Starting Point: Teaching the January 6 Insurrection” (with James Grossman), AHA Perspectives, January 11, 2021.
  • The Shattering: America in the 1960s (New York: W.W. Norton, 2021; audiobook, 2021; paperback edition, 2022).
  • “We Are Living in Richard Nixon’s America. Escaping It Won’t Be Easy,” The New York Times (July 31, 2022).
  • “How Relatives Can Make Radicals,” The Atlantic (April 27, 2023).

Teaching Interests

  • Boyle teaches a variety of undergraduate courses in modern American history, including the second half of the U.S. survey and upper-level courses on the civil rights movement, racial violence, the mid-twentieth century U.S., and the United States in the 1960s.
  • He has also directed senior theses on a range of topics, from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima to the integration of schools in suburban Indianapolis, radical activism in 1960s Chicago to the restriction of voting rights in George Wallace’s Alabama, the complexities of second wave feminism to the racial politics of post-war Alexandria, Virginia.
  • At the graduate level, Boyle teaches courses in the twentieth century United States, modern American urban racial history, working-class history, and narrative history. His graduate students have completed dissertations on organized labor and national politics in the 1970s (Maria Graciela Abarca, University of Buenos Aires); post-1960s grassroots activism (Robert Surbrug, Bay Path University); German-American politics in the 1930s (Gregory Kupsky, U.S. Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency); Catholicism and conservatism in the New Deal era (Brian Kennedy); race, gender and the urban crisis in Baltimore (Jane Berger, Moravian College); Mexican Americans and school desegregation in the post-civil rights era (Danielle Olden, University of Utah);  urban neo-liberalism and the culture of risk (Joseph Arena, U.S. Department of Defense); the crisis of mass incarceration (Charlotte Rosen, Northwestern’s Chabraja Center for Historical Studies); and Chicago’s postwar racial politics (Erica Gilbert-Levin, Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy, University of Illinois Chicago) . He is currently directing three marvelously talented Ph.D. students:, Kathryn Harvey,  Andrew Holter, and Eric Rhodes.

Recent Awards and Honors

  • Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence, 2019-2022.
  • Andrew Carnegie Fellow, 2015-2016.
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholars Fellow, 2015-2016.
  • Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities Fellow, 2015-2016.
  • ASG Faculty Honor Roll, 2015-2016, 2019-20, 2021-22.
  • Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award, Ohio State University, 2010.