John Morrow '66 Historian


Expert on WWI and WWII honored for lifetime achievement

John Morrow ’66 is never far from history.

In fact, he was leading a battlefield tour in Normandy when he learned he’d received a lifetime award for his career as a historian.

“I was stunned when I got the call,” says Morrow. “I was on the D-Day beaches trekking around.”

The Pritzker Military Museum & Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing carries a $100,000 honorarium. Morrow, the Franklin Professor of History at the University of Georgia, is the first African American recipient.

“Our cultural history of warfare tends to romanticize and glorify war,” he says. 

“But I’m interested in what war does to people. It brutalizes and desensitizes the people who fight it,” adds Morrow, who addressed issues of racism and isolationism in his acceptance speech.

Morrow specializes in World War I and World War II. He’s taught West Point cadets as well university students. “I love changing their minds with books,” he says. “Of course, I pick the books.” 

He’s also served as a consultant for museums, including the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, and on major exhibits such as “We Return Fighting,” which is on display through June 14 at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. 

“Black men have fought in every [U.S.] war and were lynched for it when they returned. People say, ‘That’s a sad story.’ It’s not a sad story. It’s a nasty, vicious story.” 

The late Swarthmore professor Paul Beik influenced Morrow to major in history. He graduated with honors and married Diane Batts Morrow ’69, now a professor of African American history, also at the University of Georgia.

Morrow sees connections between 1930s history and today’s political climate. “Experts in German history are sounding the cry,” says Morrow. He recommends two titles to fellow Swarthmoreans: Benjamin Carter Hett’s The Death of Democracy and Peter Fritzche’s Life and Death in the Third Reich.

“You don’t have to be a professional historian,” he says. “Just read.”