OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

Lorrin Thomas

Portrait of Lorrin Thomas
Image Credit: Dana Scherer

Lorrin Thomas is an associate professor of history at Rutgers University-Camden, where she teaches Latin American and Caribbean history and the comparative history of the Americas. Her research explores ideas about rights and equality in the twentieth-century Americas. Her first book, Puerto Rican Citizen: History and Political Identity in Twentieth-Century New York City (2010), traces the complex meanings of citizenship for colonial migrants in the U.S. metropole. She is currently working on two books: a study of Puerto Rican politics and civil rights in the United States, with Aldo Lauria Santiago, and an examination of the politics of human rights in the Americas in the 1970s.

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

This lecture explores the colonial origins of Puerto Ricans' U.S. citizenship, and the political meanings and impact of this unique status on migrants themselves and on American society at large.
This lecture examines the political status of Puerto Rico throughout the 20th century, with particular attention to the reverberations of the colonial relationship in the U.S., where it is rarely acknowledged. The lecture concludes with reflections on the changing role of Puerto Rican voters, both on the island and in the U.S., in the 21st century.
This lecture examines how the presence of Latinos in the U.S. since the 19th century has challenged assumptions about the United States as a nation that is primarily black and white. One version of the lecture focuses on New York City and emphasizes the role of Puerto Ricans in the Harlem riot of 1935; another version is broader, and includes discussion of the history of Mexican Americans and race relations in the West and Southwest as well.
This lecture explores the radical roots of ethnic studies programs, which were an important but under-appreciated outcome of the grassroots racial justice movements of the 1960s. The focus is on the creation of Puerto Rican Studies programs, with some discussion of Chicano Studies and Black Studies programs in the same era.
This lecture connects the emergence of human rights politics around the Americas in the 1970s to the perceived failures of liberal social movements (in the U.S.) and to intensifying state violence against dissidents (in Latin America) after the 1960s. The focus of the lecture is on Mexico in the 1970s.