John Womack Jr. (born 1937) is an historian of Latin America, particularly of Mexico, the Mexican Revolution (1910–1921) and Emiliano Zapata. In June 2009 he retired from his post as the Robert Woods Bliss Professor of Latin American History and Economics at Harvard University.
Womack was born in Norman, Oklahoma, in 1937 to John Womack Sr., also a historian. He graduated summa cum laude at Harvard University in 1959 (see Publications) and became a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. In the 1960s he returned to his alma mater to earn a Ph.D. in History with exceptional research that gave him international prestige and his most famous book: Zapata and the Mexican Revolution (1969). His dissertation earned him a place at Harvard as an assistant professor of Latin American History. The published monograph was nominated for a National Book Award in 1970 and he was named to the Robert Woods Bliss Chair in Latin American History, first held by Clarence Haring. He has focused on modern Mexican history, with interests in Cuban and Colombian history, leading research in agrarian, industrial, and labor history. After his monograph on Zapata, which inspired many other scholars to pursue projects on grassroots rural history, Womack shifted his interest to urban working class history. In 1978, he published an article in Marxist Perspectives on the Mexican economy during the Revolution. His article in the Cambridge History of Latin America was anthologized in Mexico Since Independence. In 1999, he published an article on the Moctezuma beer brewery. In 2005, he published a lengthy article assessing the state of labor history. His 1999 anthology of documents, Rebellion in Chiapas: An Historical Reader was a timely collection that places the Chiapas struggle in a historical perspective back to the sixteenth century.
On November 21, 2009, he received the 1808 Medal, given by the Mexico City government. He gave it up to the Mexican Union of Electricians, saying: "My infinite respect for the ability of Mexicans to transform in benefit of the majority their moments of crisis. Such conviction moves me to give honor and deliver this medal to the most important, most courageous organization that took form in this city during the revolutionary wars at the beginning of the last century, the Mexican Union of Electricians (...)". He was interviewed by Adela Pineda Franco and Jaime Marroquín Arrendondo on his views of the Mexican Revolution, the movie Viva Zapata, and the relevance of Zapata in modern Mexico. "In Mexico, for complicated, still largely unexamined historical reasons, the exploited classes cannot count on politicians or intellectuals for guidance to overthrow the systems of exploitation, centered in New York, proliferated into centers in Mexico, concentrated, of course in Mexico City. Like the people in Morelos, 1900-1911, the exploited have to figure out for themselves, not trusting the politicians they know whatever they howl, whatever they promise."
Womack also serves on the board of directors for FFIPP-USA (Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace-USA) which is a network of Palestinian, Israeli, and International faculty, and students, working for an end of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and just peace.
- "Doing Labor History: Feelings, Work, Material Power" in Journal of the Historical Society (2005)
- Rebellion in Chiapas: An Historical Reader (1999)
- Zapata and the Mexican Revolution Vintage (1969) ISBN 0-394-70853-9
- Zapata and the Mexican Revolution (1968)
- Oklahoma’s Green Corn Rebellion: The Importance of Fools. Harvard, senior thesis (1959)
- Emiliano Zapata and the Revolution in Morelos, 1910-1920. Harvard, Ph.D. dissertation (1966)
- The Revolution That Wasn't: Mexico, 1910-1920 The New Press, 2011.