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Michael Pfeifer
Position: Associate Professor
Campus Affiliation: Graduate Center|John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Phone: (212)237-8856
Research Interests: U.S. Legal, Social, and Cultural History; Global History of Violence
Michael Pfeifer's teaching and research interests revolve around the history of collective violence and criminal justice in the United States, the social history of American Catholicism, and the cultural history of operatic and orchestral performance in the United States. 

He is the author of Rough Justice: Lynching and American Society, 1874-1947 (University of Illinois Press, 2004), The Roots of Rough Justice: Origins of American Lynching (University of Illinois Press, 2011), and the editor of Lynching Beyond Dixie: American Mob Violence Outside the South (University of Illinois Press, forthcoming), as well as more than fifteen articles on the history of lynching and criminal justice, including “The Northern United States and the Genesis of Racial Lynching: The Lynching of African-Americans in the Civil War Era,” Journal of American History, Vol. 97, no. 3 (December 2010), 621-635.   U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana cited his book Rough Justice and entered his list of Louisiana lynchings into the Congressional Record on June 13, 2005, as she introduced Senate Resolution 39, which apologized to lynching victims and their descendants for the U.S. Senate’s historical failure to pass anti-lynching legislation. 

His current book-length project is a social and cultural history of American Catholicism from its origins through the first decade of the twenty-first century.  The project, tentatively entitled American Catholics, examines the evolving social, devotional, and ideological matrices of American Catholicism through the perspectives of the histories of four individual Catholic parishes, in New Orleans, New York City, Wisconsin, and New Mexico. 

Before joining the John Jay History Department in August 2007, he served for seven years as a Faculty Member at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and for a year as an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada.


Rough Justice: Lynching and American Society, 1874-1947. University of Illinois Press, 2004 (245 pages). Paperback edition, 2006.

The Roots of Rough Justice: The Origins of Lynching in the United States. University of Illinois Press. 2011. 

Lynching beyond Dixie: American Mob Violence outside the South. (editor) University of Illinois Press, 2013.

Short Articles

“The Northern U.S and the Genesis of Racial Lynching: The Lynching of African-Americans in the Civil War Era.” The Journal of American History, Vol. 97, no. 3 (December 2010), 621-635.  

"Lynchings." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 2nd Edition. Macmillan Reference USA (Thomson Gale), 2006.
"Lynching." Encyclopedia of Appalachia. University of Tennessee Press, 2006.

"Lynchings." Encyclopedia of the Great Depression. Macmillan Reference USA, 2003.


"The Origins of Postbellum Lynching: Collective Violence in Reconstruction Louisiana." Under review at Louisiana History.

"The 1857 Eastern Iowa Vigilante Movement: Law, Society, and Violence in the Antebellum Midwest." The Annals of Iowa, Vol. 64, no. 2 (Spring 2005), 139-166.

"Wisconsin's Last Decade of Lynching, 1881-1891: Law and Violence in the Postbellum Midwest." American Nineteenth Century History, Vol. 6, no. 3 (September 2005), 227-239.

"'Midnight Justice': Lynching and Law in the Pacific Northwest." Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Vol. 94, no. 2 (Spring 2003), 83-92.

"Lynching and Criminal Justice: The Midwest and West as American Regions, 1874-1947." Western Legal History, Vol. 14, no. 2 (Summer/Fall 2001), 103-122.

"Lynching and Criminal Justice in South Louisiana, 1878-1920." Louisiana History, Vol. XL, no. 2 (Spring 1999), 155-177.

"Insanity, Sexuality, and the Gallows in Late Nineteenth-Century Iowa: The Case of Chester Bellows." The Annals of Iowa, Vol. 57, no. 3 (Fall 1998), 321-336.

"Iowa's Last Lynching: The Charles City Mob of 1907
and Iowa Progressivism." The Annals of Iowa, Vol. 53, no. 4 (Fall 1994), 305-328.

"The Ritual of Lynching: Extralegal Justice in Missouri, 1890-1942." Gateway Heritage, Vol. 13, no. 3 (Winter 1993), 22-33.

Book Reviews

Review of John F. Marszalek, A Black Congressman in the Age of Jim Crow: South Carolina's George Washington Murray (University Press of Florida, 2006). Louisiana History, forthcoming.

Review of Ken Gonzales-Day, Lynching in the West, 1850-1935 (Duke University Press, 2006). Journal of American History, forthcoming.

Review of Susan K. Lucke, The Bellevue War: Mandate of Justice or Murder by Mob (McMillen Publishing, 2002). The Annals of Iowa, forthcoming.

Review of Michele K. Gillespie and Randal L. Hall, eds., Thomas Dixon and the Making of Modern America. (Louisiana State University Press, 2006). Louisiana History, forthcoming.

Review of John Hammond Moore, Carnival of Blood: Duel, Lynching, and Murder in South Carolina, 1880-1920 (University of South Carolina Press, 2006). North Carolina Historical Review, forthcoming.

Review of Christopher Waldrep, Lynching in America: A History in Documents (New York University Press, 2006). The American Journal of Legal History, Vol. XLVII, no. 4 (October 2005), 454-455.

Review of Patricia Bernstein, The First Waco Horror. (Texas A & M University Press, 2004).
The Historian, Vol. 68 (Fall 2006).

Review of Gregory Mixon, The Atlanta Riot: Race, Class, and Violence in a New South City. (Southern Dissent Series, University Press of Florida, 2005). The American Historical Review, Vol. 111, no. 1 (February 2006), 208-209.

Review of William D. Carrigan, The Making of a Lynching Culture: Violence and Vigilantism in Central Texas, 1836-1916. (University of Illinois Press, 2004). The Journal of American History, Vol. 92, no. 3 (December 2005), 1022-1023.

Review of Diane Miller Sommerville, Rape and Race in the Nineteenth-Century South. (University of North Carolina Press, 2004). Journal of the History of Sexuality, Vol. 14, no. 4 (October 2005), 479-482.

Review of Frederick Allen, A Decent Orderly Lynching: The Montana Vigilantes.
(University of Oklahoma Press, 2004). Western Legal History, Vol. 17, no. 1 (Winter/Spring 2004), 135-137.

Review of John D. Bessler, Legacy of Violence: Mobs and Execution in Minnesota. (University of Minnesota Press, 2003). The Michigan Historical Review, Vol. 30, no. 2 (Fall 2004), 211-212.

Review of Christopher Waldrep and Donald G. Nieman, eds., Local Matters: Race, Crime, and Justice in the Nineteenth-Century South. (University of Georgia Press, 2001). Posted on H-SOUTH (H-Net Discussion Network for Scholars of the History of the American South), September 2004,

Review of Stephen J. Leonard, Lynching in Colorado 1859-1919 (University Press of Colorado, 2002). Annals of Wyoming, Winter 2003.

Review of James Madison, A Lynching in the Heartland: Race and Memory in America (Palgrave, 2002). The Annals of Iowa, Vol. 62, no. 1 (Winter 2003), 118-120.

Retropective Review of C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow(Commemorative Edition, Oxford University Press, 2002). Posted on H-SOUTH (H-Net Discussion Network for Scholars of the History of the American South), May 2003,

Review of Dominic J. Capeci, The Lynching of Cleo Wright (University of Kentucky Press, 1998). American Journal of Legal History, 2000.

Review of Ann Gorzalka, Wyoming's Territorial Sheriffs (High Plains Press, 1998).Annals of Wyoming, Spring 1999.

Review of Christopher Waldrep, Roots of Disorder: Race and Criminal Justice in the American South, 1817-80 (University of Illinois Press, 1998). Posted on H-SHEAR (H-Net Discussion Network for the Scholars of the History of the Early American Republic), April 1999.

Review of Clare V. McKanna, Jr., Homicide, Race, and Justice in the American West, 1880-1920 (University of Arizona Press, 1997).
The Annals of Iowa, Vol. 57, no. 2 (Summer 1998), 174-175.

Grants and Fellowships

Fulbright Award, Senior Lecturer, University of Erfurt, Summer 2008.

Sponsored Research Summer Grant, Provost's Office,
The Evergreen State College, Summer 2005.

State Historical Society of Iowa (SHSI) Research Grant, 2002-2003.

Sponsored Research Summer Grant, Provost's Office,
The Evergreen State College, Summer 2001.

State Historical Society of Iowa (SHSI) Research Grant, 1996-97.

Elizabeth Bennett Ink Fellowship for dissertation research,

Areas of expertise: the history of collective violence and criminal justice; the social history of Catholicism in the modern world; cultural history of opera.