- All At Sea: Coming of Age in World War II (memoir) (1996)
- Booker T. Washington in Perspective: Essays of Louis R. Harlan (1988) edited by Raymond W. Smock
- Booker T. Washington: The Making of a Black Leader, 1856-1901. (1972)
- Booker T. Washington: The Wizard of Tuskegee, 1901-1915 (won the 1984 Pulitzer Prize in Biography) (1983)
- Separate but Unequal: Public School Campaigns and Racism in the Southern Seaboard States, 1901-1915 (1958)
Louis Harlan was born in West Point, Mississippi, in 1922. His family moved to Decatur, Georgia, where he spent most of his childhood. Harlan enlisted in the Navy in 1942, but completed his bachelor’s degree at Emory University in 1943. He served during World War II. He earned his master’s degree in 1948 from Vanderbilt University and his doctoral degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1955.
He worked as a professor at East Texas State College through the 1950’s. From 1959 to 1964, he taught at the University of Cincinnati. From 1965, until he retired in 2003, he taught at the University of Maryland.
Harlan was the leading scholar of Booker T. Washington. His first and second volumes about Booker T. Washington won the Bancroft Prize and the second volume won Pulitzer Prize in 1984.
He died in 2010 in Lexington City, Virginia.