Hylan Lewis was born in Washington D.C. in 1911. He received his B.A. from Virginia Union University (1932) and his M.A. (1936) and Ph.D. (1951) from the University of Chicago. Lewis would become a sociologist and a pioneer in the field of community studies. He began his career at Howard University where he was an Instructor in Sociology and Economics from 1933-1941. During his tenure at Howard University in 1937, Lewis taught a course titled Sociology 125: Social Psychology.