Michael Pfeifer

Michael Pfeifer

Research Interests

  • U.S Legal, Social, and Cultural History; History of American Regions; Global History of Violence; History of Global Catholicism; History of American Religion


  • Ph.D. in History, University of Iowa


Affiliated Campus(es)

  • John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Michael J. Pfeifer’s work revolves around the regional and transnational contexts of American social, legal, and cultural history. His work has explored the history of American collective violence, particularly lynching, as well as the history of American Catholicism. 

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana cited Pfeifer’s 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. Pfeifer has been quoted or cited on the history of American lynching in a number of media outlets, including the Atlanta Black Star, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today.

Pfeifer’s 2021 book The Making of American Catholicism (NYU Press) argues that region is central to understanding American Catholic history, as are transnational relationships, ethnicity, race, gender, and social class. With close analysis of the experiences of Latinx, African American, and European-descended Catholics, The Making of American Catholicism traces the history of Catholic communities in New Orleans, Iowa, Wisconsin, Los Angeles, and New York City.

Pfeifer is currently working on Alaska as a window into the history of Russian-U.S. relations and on the global, transnational history of symphonic music. Finally, he is editing two multi-volume reference works with ABC-CLIO, History of American Racial Violence: an Encyclopedia of Conflicts, Riots, and Revolution and Terrible Legacy: Encyclopedia of Lynching in America.

Awards and Grants

  • Fulbright Award to Germany, Professor, Senior Lecturer, University of Erfurt, Summer 2014.

Professional Affiliations and Memberships

  • American Academy of Religion
  • American Society of Church History

Courses Taught

  • Hist. 84900 Seminar in American History I



  • The Making of American Catholicism: Regional Culture and the Catholic Experience. New York University Press, 2021.
  • Global Lynching and Collective Violence, Volume One: Asia, Africa, and the Middle East (editor and contributor). University of Illinois Press, 2017.
  • Global Lynching and Collective Violence, Volume One: The Americas and Europe (editor and contributor). University of Illinois Press, 2017.
  • Lynching beyond Dixie: American Mob Violence outside the South (editor and contributor). University of Illinois Press, 2013.
  • The Roots of Rough Justice: Origins of American Lynching. University of Illinois Press, 2011. Paperback edition, 2014.
  • Rough Justice: Lynching and American Society, 1874-1947. University of Illinois Press, 2004. Paperback edition, 2006.

Scholarly Articles

  • "Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr.’s Seminole Burning and the Historiography of the Lynching of Native Americans.” Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (2020), First View, 1-6. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S1537781420000493.
  • "The Making of a Midwestern Catholicism: Identities, Ethnicity, and Catholic Culture in Iowa City, 1840-1940.” The Annals of Iowa, Vol. 76, no. 3 (Summer 2017), 201-226.
  • “The Strange Career of New Orleans Catholicism: Race at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, 1905-2006.” Louisiana History, Vol. LVIII, no. 1 (Winter 2017), 59-92.
  • “At the Hands of Parties Unknown?: The State of the Field of Lynching Studies.” The Journal of American History, Vol. 101, no. 3 (December 2014), 832-846.
  • “Final Thoughts on the State of the Field of Lynching Scholarship.” The Journal of American History, Vol. 101, no. 3 (December 2014), 832-859-860.
  • “The Bitter Seed of Albion and Eire: Extralegal Violence and Law in the Early Modern British Isles and the Origins of American Lynching,” in Manfred Berg and Simon Wendt, eds., Globalizing Lynching History: Vigilantism and Extralegal Punishment from an International Perspective (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).
  • “The Lynching of Slaves: Race, Law, and the White Community in the Antebellum South,” in Louis Kyriakoudes, Michele Gillespie, Susanna Delfino, eds., The Transformations of Southern Society, 1790-1860, 45-63. (University of Missouri Press, 2011).
  • “The Northern United States 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.
  • "The Origins of Postbellum Lynching: Collective Violence in Reconstruction Louisiana." Louisiana History, Vol. L, No. 2 (Spring 2009), 189-201.
  • "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. Subsequently republished in William D. Carrigan, Lynching Reconsidered: New Perspectives in the Study of Mob Violence, Routledge Press, 2008.
  • "'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.

Short Scholarly Articles

  • “100 Percent Americanism in the Concert Hall: the Minneapolis Symphony in the Great War.” In Frank Jacob, Jeffrey Shaw and Timothy Demy, eds.: War and the Humanities: The Cultural Impact of the First World War (Paderborn: Schöningh, 2018).
  • “A Symphonic Midwest: The Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra and Regionalist Identity, 1903-1922.” In Jon K. Lauck, ed., The Midwestern Moment: Vol. 1: The Forgotten World of Early Twentieth-Century Midwestern Regionalism, 101-112. Hastings College Press, 2017.
  • “Homicide in the South.” In James G. Thomas and Amy Louise Wood, eds., The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, Vol. 22, Violence. University of North Carolina Press, 2011.
  • "Lynchings." In William A. Darity, Jr., ed., International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 2nd Edition, 526-527. Macmillan Reference USA (Thomson Gale), 2008.
  • "Lynching." In Rudy Abramson and Jean Haskell, eds., Encyclopedia of Appalachia. University of Tennessee Press, 2006.
  • "Lynchings." In Robert S. McElvaine, ed., Encyclopedia of the Great Depression. Macmillan Reference USA, 2003.

Opinion Articles

  • “Interconnected Histories of Race, Violence, and Policing in America.” History News Network, June 7, 2020, https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/175830
  • “Donald Trump’s Shameful Use of the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ is, Alas, an American Tradition,” History News Network, May 29, 2018, https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/169153
  • “How Can We Stop Police from Killing Black People?” History News Network, October 9, 2016, http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/164024
Michael Pfeifer


Affiliated Campus(es)

  • John Jay College of Criminal Justice