There Are No Shortcuts: The Korean War and the African American Struggle for Civil Rights


Thursday, April 1, 2021, 6:00pm to 7:00pm


Online Event (Zoom)

SBS Seminar; co-sponsored by the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research (This event is part of the Race and Racism in Asia and Beyond Series, co-sponsored by the Harvard Asia Center, Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute, Program on US-Japan Relations, Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies)
4.1 SBS Seminar Poster

Mitchell Lerner
Professor of History; Director, East Asian Studies Center, The Ohio State University

Mitchell Lerner is professor of history at The Ohio State University, and director of the East Asian Studies Center. His research and teaching focus is on modern American diplomatic and political history during the Cold War, with an emphasis on U.S.-Korean relations.

Lerner's first book, The Pueblo Incident: A Spy Ship and the Failure of American Foreign Policy, was published in 2002 by the University Press of Kansas. The book won the 2002 John Lyman Book Award for the best work of U.S. Naval History, and was named by the American Library Association as one of 50 "historically significant works" that would not have been published after the passage of Executive Order 13233. It was also nominated for the Pulitzer and Bancroft Prizes. He is also editor of three volumes that work at the intersection of American politics and foreign policy.

He has published articles about modern American politics and foreign policy (often with a Korean focus) in numerous anthologies and journals, including Diplomatic History, Diplomacy & Statecraft, the Journal of Military HistoryPresidential Studies Quarterly, Journal of East Asian Affairs; Journal of Cold War Studies, and the Journal of East Asian Relations. He is currently at work on a policy history of the Johnson administration, as well as a broad study of U.S.-Korean relations during the Cold War.

Lerner was elected to the governing council of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations in 2008, and is on the advisory board of the North Korea International Documentation Project, directed by the Cold War International History Project at the Wilson Center for Scholars. He has also served as a fellow at the University of Virginia's Miller Center for Public Affairs, and in 2005-06 he held the Mary Ball Washington Distinguished Fulbright Chair at University College-Dublin. In 2019, he was selected to the Association of Asian Studies’ Distinguished Speakers Bureau, and also delivered the National Security Agency’s Center for Cryptologic History annual Henry Schorrek Memorial Lectures.

Lerner has received fellowships and grants from the Korea Foundation, Lyndon Johnson Presidential Library, Dwight Eisenhower Presidential Library, and John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. He has served as editor of Passport: The Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations Review, and is now associate editor of the Journal of American-East Asian Relations. In 2005, Lerner won the Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching, and in 2019, he won the Ohio Academy of History Distinguished Teacher Prize.

Chaired by Nicholas HarknessModern Korean Economy and Society Professor of Anthropology, Harvard University

The relationship between the Korean War and the African American civil rights movement is one that has been largely overlooked in the historical literature. This presentation traces the struggles of the African American community during the war, focusing in particular on the battlefield experiences of African American soldiers, to conclude that Korea served as a pivotal moment in directing the civil rights effort towards the more overtly aggressive posture that is commonly associated with the war in Vietnam. This talk will suggest that the experiences of African American soldiers along the 38th parallel provided a critical step towards the increased disillusionment and militancy of the subsequent decade.

To attend this event online, we ask that you please register via the following link:

As we approach the event date, you will receive a reminder email with the Zoom link.