OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

Neil Foley

Portrait of Neil Foley

Neil Foley holds the Robert and Nancy Dedman Chair in American History at Southern Methodist University where he teaches twentieth-century U.S. history, immigration (particularly from Mexico), race and ethnicity in the American West, Latino history, and comparative civil rights politics. He has lectured widely in Europe, the United States, and Latin America, and has received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, American Council of Learned Societies, Fulbright Scholar Program (Berlin and Mexico City), Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the Ford Foundation. He is the author of Mexicans in the Making of America (2014), Quest for Equality: The Failed Promise of Black-Brown Solidarity (2010), and The White Scourge: Mexicans, Blacks, and Poor Whites in Texas (1997), which won the OAH Frederick Jackson Turner Award as well as awards from the Southern Historical Association, American Historical Association, and Western Historical Association, and the Gustavus Meyers Outstanding Book Award for the Study of Human Rights in North America. Foley has lived abroad in Mexico (Mexico City), Germany (Berlin, Heidelberg, Stuttgart), Spain (Salamanca, Zaragosa), and Japan (Misawa; Naha, Okinawa). He also spent two years living on aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean Sea where he taught sailors of the U.S. Naval Forces 6th Fleet for George Washington University.

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

By midcentury over one in four U.S. residents will be Hispanic, and the overwhelming majority of these will be of Mexican descent. Since 1960, the nation’s Hispanic population increased nearly ninefold, from 6.3 million (4%) to 55.3 million (17%) in 2014. At the same time the population of whites is declining and will comprise less than 50% of the population by midcentury. This dramatic demographic shift is reshaping politics, culture, and fundamental ideas about American identity. The surge in immigration since the 1970s has also led to increasing levels of xenophobia resulting in anti-immigrant politics and policies, including militarization of the border, state laws curtailing rights of undocumented immigrants, mass detention and deportation, the building of a 700-mile border fence in 2006, and Donald Trump’s recent promise to build a wall along the 2,000-mile border with Mexico. With over a million U.S.-born Latinos turning 18 years of age every year and therefore eligible to vote, and the ineluctable decline of the white population, many aging whites wonder if a majority-minority America can ever be “great again”