Higham, John 1920-2003

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HIGHAM, John 1920-2003

PERSONAL: Born October 26, 1920, in Jamaica, NY; died July 26, 2003; son of Lloyd Stuart and Margaret (Windred) Higham; married Eileen Moss, August 26, 1948; children: Constance, Margaret, Jay, Daniel. Education:Johns Hopkins University, B.A., 1941; University of Wisconsin, M.A., 1942, Ph.D., 1949.

CAREER: American Mercury, New York, NY, editorial assistant, 1945-46; University of California, Los Angeles, instructor, 1948-50, assistant professor, 1950-54; Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, associate professor, 1954-58, professor, 1958-60; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, professor of history, 1960-68, Moses Coit Tyler Professor of History, 1968-71, 1972-73; Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, John Martin Vincent Professor of History, beginning 1971. Visiting associate professor, Columbia University, 1958-59; Commonwealth Fund Lecturer, University College, University of London, 1968; Phi Beta Kappa visiting scholar, 1972-73; Fulbright lecturer, Kyoto American Studies Seminar, 1974. Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris, France, directeur d'etudes, 1981-82. Member of board of directors, American Immigration Conference, 1956-60. Member, Institute for Advanced Study, 1973-74. Military service: U.S. Army Air Forces, 1943-45; served in Italy as historian for Twelfth Air Force; became staff sergeant.

MEMBER: American Studies Association (president of Middle Atlantic States chapter, 1956-57), Organization of American Historians (member of executive committee, 1964-67, 1974-77; president, 1973-74), American Historical Association (member of council and executive committee, 1971-74), American Antiquarian Society, Society of American Historians, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Immigration and Ethnic History Society (vice president, 1976-79; president, 1979-82), New Society Letters Lund (Sweden), Michigan Society of Fellows, Century Club.

AWARDS, HONORS: American Historical Association John H. Dunning Prize, 1956, for Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism; Princeton University Council for the Humanities fellow, 1960-61; Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences fellow, 1965-66; Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars fellow, 1976-77; Lifetime Achievement Award, Immigration and Ethnic History Society, 2002.


Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860-1925, Rutgers University Press (New Brunswick, NJ), 1955, 2nd edition, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1963, reprinted, Rutgers University Press (New Brunswick, NJ), 2002.

(Editor and coauthor) The Reconstruction of American History, Harper (New York, NY), 1962, reprinted, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 1980.

(With Felix Gilbert and Leonard Krieger) History, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1965, reprinted, Garland Publishing (New York, NY), 1985.

(Contributor) The Origins of Modern Consciousness, edited by John Weiss, Wayne State University Press (Detroit, MI), 1965.

From Boundlessness to Consolidation: The Transformation of American Culture, 1848-1860, Clements Library, University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI), 1969.

Writing American History: Essays on Modern Scholarship, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1970.

History: Professional Scholarship in America, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1973.

Send These to Me: Jews and Other Immigrants in Urban America, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1975.

(Editor) Ethnic Leadership in America, Johns Hopkins Press (Baltimore, MD), 1978.

(Editor, with Paul Conkin) New Directions in American Intellectual History, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 1979.

(With Michael Crystal) Loose on Liquidators: The Role of a Liquidator in a Voluntary Winding-Up, 2nd edition, Jordan (Bristol, England), 1981.

(Editor) Civil Rights and Social Wrongs: Black-White Relations since World War II, Pennsylvania State University Press (University Park, PA), 1997.

Hanging Together: Unity and Diversity in American Culture, edited by Carl J. Guarneri, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2001.

Also editor, "The Meaning of American History" series, Harper. Contributor to professional journals. Member of editorial board, American Quarterly, 1964-67; consulting editor, Comparative Studies in Society and History, beginning 1972.

SIDELIGHTS: John Higham broke into the historical nonfiction forefront in 1955, when he published Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860-1925. According to George M. Fredrickson of the New York Review of Books, the book was "well received when it came out in 1955, and it has remained to this day the standard account of America's anti-immigrant ideologies, movements, and policies." It was obvious that Higham had a firm grasp on the American condition and the history that created it. His premise was that the natives of our land have the least amount of opportunity, largely due to the immigrants who are much more apt to succeed in our capitalist society. In an interview with U.S. News & World Report, Higham conveyed that "opportunity arises out of motion, out of changing places." He continued, "It's the immigrants who can move most dramatically, who can change their lives most spectacularly. They are not bound by their standing in society." Higham surmised that Americans may pursue opportunities in less tangible ways, giving the examples of culture and spirit, "freedom to define one's own goals, freedom to reconsider the character of one's life, freedom to invent, develop and imagine." He believed that is what America will be recognized for throughout time.

Higham's book Hanging Together, shows his "greatest impact and influence on the interpretation of America's past . . . through dozens of carefully crafted, thoughtful and perceptive articles," wrote Allen Davis in American Studies International: "It can stand as a tribute to a lifetime achievement." Davis believed that Higham really found his niche in the well-thought articles, as apposed to his recurrent "history of history writing in America" themes Higham addressed in other books. Library Journal's Andrew Brodie Smith described the book as addressing "the subject of national character and the mechanisms by which people of divergent ethnic and class backgrounds have come together to identify as Americans throughout the country's history." Smith also wrote that, although some of the essays are decades old, they still are applicable to current conditions. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly commented that the book "focuses on the constant reinvention of the 'American'."

"Although Higham's parents came from a Midwestern Protestant background, he grew up in Queens, had Jewish and Catholic friends, and thus became sensitive from an early age to the diverse character of American Society," wrote Fredrickson. It is clear this had an effect on his world view as Hanging Together shows "deep understanding of the plight of the oppressed or marginalized groups that have sought higher status both within historical memory and in society at large," explained Fredrickson. This understanding, no doubt, helped Higham in his editorial capacity for the book Civil Rights and Social Wrongs

Civil Rights and Social Wrongs addresses the strained relations between blacks and whites since World War II. Higham not only edited the book, but also contributed an article to the collection. Brian Faire of the Journal of American Ethnic History explained how "the book situates readers principally in the 1940s postwar period, examining black-white relations and racial attitudes since then." Faire believed the book "reveals significant nuances on controversial topics frequently omitted from policy debates," continuing that "Higham writes as a participant/critic, with an insider's perspective and passion." Faire noted that "Higham's historical review is unsurprisingly first-rate."

Higham's publication, Send These To Me is based largely on a paper he read for a meeting of the American Historical Association. Focusing on natives, it explores how immigrants influenced American culture, including the symbols used to represent this country and ideology of what the country stands for. The book was first published in 1975, and was reissued after a multitude of revisions in 1984. The book also examines anti-Semitism in America, suggesting that the problem is not rooted out of the European uprising spawning World War II, but rather "was primarily a social phenomenon reflecting the insecurities of middle- and upper-class gentiles at a time of great social mobility," according to Fredrickson. Fredrickson explained that Higham once again acted as a mediator between the differing views, bringing cohesion where there was little. It is clear that Higham had a unique perspective, and he employed this perspective to bring more understanding to society for generations of today, and those to come.



African American Review, March 22, 2000, Allen Matusow, review of Civil Rights and Social Wrongs: Black-White Relations since World War II, p. 153.

American Journal of Sociology, July, 1982, review of New Directions in American Intellectual History, p. 214.

American Studies International, October, 2001, Allen F. Davis, review of Hanging Together: Unity and Diversity in American Culture, pp. 77-79.

Choice, March, 1982, review of Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860-1925, p. 876; review of May, 1998, J. H. Smith, review of Civil Rights and Social Wrongs, p. 1590.

Contemporary Sociology January, 1999, Mihcael E. Hodge, review of Civil Rights and Social Wrongs, p. 39.

Ethnic and Racial Studies, January, 1990, Barbara Ballis Lal, review of Strangers in the Land, 2nd edition, p. 142; November, 1998, John Edwards, review of Civil Rights and Social Wrongs, p. 1183.

History, fall, 1988, review of Strangers in the Land, p. 6; fall, 2001, L. Moody Simms, Jr., review of Hanging Together, pp. 12-13.

International Migration Review, winter, 1989, Donald L. Zelman, review of Strangers in the Land, 2nd edition, p. 952.

Journal of American Ethnic History, fall-winter, 1990, John Bodnar, review of Strangers in the Land, 2nd edition, p. 80; summer, 1999, Bryan K. Fair, review of Civil Rights and Social Wrongs, pp. 167-175.

Journal of American History, March, 1999, Michael Omi, review of Civil Rights and Social Wrongs, p. 1671.

Journal of Southern History, May, 1999, Willard B. Gatewood, review of Civil Rights and Social Wrongs, p. 438.

Library Journal, August 1, 2001, Andrew Brodie Smith, review of Hanging Together, p. 142.

New York Review of Books, February 28, 2002, George M. Fredrickson, "Wise Man," review of Hanging Together, pp. 37-39.

Publishers Weekly, May 7, 2001, review of Hanging Together, p. 235.

Reference & Research Book News, May, 1998, review of Civil Rights and Social Wrongs, p. 43.

Social Forces, June, 1999, review of Civil Rights and Social Wrongs, p. 1638.

U.S. News & World Report, July 4, 1983, "It's the Immigrants Who Can Move Dramatically," interview with John Higham, p. 43.

Virginia Quarterly Review, summer, 1998, review of Civil Rights and Social Wrongs, p. 100.*