News & Ideas

Erika Lee Appointed Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Faculty Director of Schlesinger Library

Portrait of Erika Lee
Courtesy of Erika Lee

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (January 26, 2024)—Erika Lee, one of the nation’s leading immigration and Asian America historians, will become Harvard Radcliffe Institute’s new Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Faculty Director at the Schlesinger Library, the largest research library focused on documenting the lives and activities of women, gender, and society in the United States. 

Lee is a Radcliffe Alumnae Professor, the inaugural Bae Family Professor of History in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and a past president of the Organization of American Historians. In 2023–2024, she is the Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. 

“Erika’s appointment marks an exciting next chapter for the Schlesinger Library and Harvard Radcliffe Institute,” said Tomiko Brown-Nagin, dean of the Institute, Daniel P.S. Paul Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School, and professor of history in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “Together with the Schlesinger’s skilled staff, her presence will both strengthen and amplify the library’s mission.” 

Prior to joining the faculty at Harvard, Lee was a Regents Professor, the Rudolph J. Vecoli Chair in Immigration History, and the director of the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota.  

“I am deeply honored and thrilled to serve as the next Pforzheimer Faculty Director of the Schlesinger Library and to join the Radcliffe Institute in this vital role,” said Lee. “I am particularly excited to partner with the executive director Petrina Jackson and Schlesinger curators to preserve and expand research, teaching, and engagement on the diverse histories of women, gender, and society in America. And I cannot wait to bring my own students into the archives—I know that they will be as impacted by the powerful histories preserved in the Schlesinger collections as so many generations have been before them.”

The granddaughter of Chinese immigrants, Lee grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, attended Tufts University, and received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. She has been elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and also testified before Congress during its historic hearings on discrimination and violence against Asian Americans. She will begin her new two-year position at the Schlesinger in September. 

Lee is the author or coauthor of five books, including The Making of Asian America: A History (Simon & Schuster, 2015) and America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States (Basic Books, 2019), which won an American Book Award and an Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature. Her next book, Made in Asian America: A History for Young People (forthcoming), coauthored with Christina Soontornvat, will be published by Quill Tree Books this spring.

Lee’s leadership at the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota focused on the center’s ongoing efforts to cocreate archives with communities and merge immigration history with the digital humanities. She launched and oversaw the new Immigrants in COVID America project as well as the National Endowment for the Humanities–funded Immigrant Stories project, which works with recent immigrants and refugees to collect, preserve, and share their experiences with a new multilingual digital storytelling website and collection. She also founded and co-organized the #ImmigrationSyllabus, a digital educational resource offering historical perspectives to contemporary immigration debates. She has a long and successful record of working with museums and archives around teaching and public engagement. 

About the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University 

The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study is a unique space within Harvard, dedicated to creating and sharing transformative ideas across all disciplines. Each year, the Institute hosts 50 leading scholars, scientists, and artists from around the world in its renowned residential fellowship program. Radcliffe fosters innovative research collaborations and offers hundreds of public lectures, exhibitions, performances, conferences, and other events annually. The Institute is home to the Schlesinger Library, the nation’s foremost archive on the history of women, gender, and sexuality. For more information about the people and programs of the Radcliffe Institute, visit

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