Harvey J. Graff is Ohio Eminent Scholar in Literacy Studies and Professor of English and History at The Ohio State University. He joined OSU in 2004, and is developing the Literacy Studies @ OSU initiative, a university-wide interdisciplinary program. Previously, he was Professor of History at the University of Texas at San Antonio. In 1999-2000, Graff served as President of the Social Science History Association, and in 2013, he received its first award for participation. In 2001, the University of Linköping in Sweden awarded him the Doctor of Philosophy honoris causa for his contributions to scholarship. In 2014, he was visiting professor at two Brazilian universities.


Recipient of a B.A. (1970) from Northwestern University, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, Graff received the M.A. (1971) and Ph.D. (1975) from The University of Toronto. Graff has received awards and fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation (Canada), National Endowment for the Humanities, American Council of Learned Societies, Texas Committee for the Humanities, Swedish Institute, National Science Foundation, The Newberry Library, Spencer Foundation, and American Antiquarian Society. He has been a fellow of The Newberry Library, the National Academy of Education (Spencer Fellow), and the American Antiquarian Society. The University of Texas at Dallas awarded him a Faculty Research Assignment in 1997-1998, UT-San Antonio awarded a Faculty Research Leave in 2002, and Ohio State in 2007 and 2011-2012. In 2013-2014, he was a fellow of the National Humanities Center.


A comparative social historian, Graff is noted internationally for his research and teaching on the history of literacy (The Literacy Myth: Literacy and Social Structure in the Nineteenth-Century City [1979, 1991]; The Legacies of Literacy: Continuities and Contradictions in Western Culture and Society [1987, Italian ed., 1989, Critics’ Choice Award of the American Educational Studies Society]; The Labyrinths of Literacy: Reflections on Literacy Past and Present [1987; 1995, Portuguese and Spanish translations in progress]; National Literacy Campaigns in Historical and Comparative Perspective [co-editor, l987, 2008]); the history of children, adolescents, and youth (Children and Schools in Nineteenth-Century Canada [co-author, 1979, 1994, English and French]; Growing Up in America: Historical Experiences [editor, 1987]; Conflicting Paths: Growing Up in America [1995, Choice Magazine Outstanding Academic Book]); and urban history and studies (The Dallas Myth: The Making and Unmaking of an American, City [2008]). He has also written on family history, criminality; social structure and population; education; and methodology and theory in history, social science, and humanities. Recent publications include the chapter on history for The Social Worlds of Higher Education: Handbook for Teaching in a New Century, a project of the American Sociological Association; entry on literacy in the Oxford Companion to United States History, Looking Backward and Looking Forward: Perspectives on Social Science History (coeditor), “Understanding Literacy in its Historical Contexts,” special issue, Interchange (co-editor). With John Duffy, he wrote “Literacy Myths,” Encyclopedia of Language and Education (2007). A new collection of essays, Literacy Myths, Legacies, and Lessons was published in 2011. Undisciplining Knowledge: Interdisciplinarity in the Twentieth Century was published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 2015. He is completing Searching for Literacy: The Origins of Literacy Studies, and beginning a study of public higher education. A selection of his essays on literacy appears in the distinguished series “Il Sapere Del Libro” from Edizioni Sylvestre Bonnard in Italy.

Graff edits the Interdisciplinary Studies in History book series for Indiana University Press. He has served on the editorial boards of such journals as Interchange, History of Education Quarterly, Historical Methods, Social Science History, Historical Social Research/Historische Sozialforschung, Literacy & Numeracy Studies, Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, American Periodicals, and several book series.


Graff has held office in the Canadian Association for American Studies, History of Education Society, Urban History Association, Society for the History of Children and Youth, and Social Science History Association (SSHA). In 2000, he presided over the 25th anniversary of the SSHA. He advises civic and community organizations, historical societies, newspapers, television and radio stations, Internet networks, and humanities and literacy programs internationally. He also works with public television and radio, telecourses, TV and video series, documentaries, and docudramas. Several programs have won awards. Graff has served on numerous advisory boards and committees, including the City of Dallas Historic Landmark and Preservation taskforce (writing copy for historical landmarks) and the American Antiquarian Society Program on the History of the Book in American Culture. A member of advisory boards for H-Urban and H-Childhood. Graff was principal academic advisor for the Chicago Historical Society’s Teen Chicago project, a multi-year project on the history of teens, oral history, public programming, and transformation of the roles of young people in museums and historical societies.


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