• Room 01.005 - 14 University Square

    United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

I am open to PhD applications in the fields of:
- 19th and 20thc. African American history
- US labour and social history
- History of the American Left

1996 …2022

Research activity per year

Personal profile


Brian Kelly is one of three historians in HAPP specialising in the US South. A labour historian with a special interest in race and class in the post-Civil War South, his early published work explored the record of interracial cooperation between black and white workers in industrial Birmingham, Alabama. His first book, Race, Class and Power in the Alabama Coalfields, 1908-1921 (Illinois, 2001), won numerous awards, including the Southern Historical Association's H. L. Mitchell Prize for an outstanding book in Southern working-class history and its Frances Butler Simkins Award for the best first book by an author in Southern history. In the years since he has published prolifically on the problem of racial antagonism and its impact on working-class politics in the US, including a substantial body of scholarship on the intellectual legacy of the prominent scholar-activist W. E. B. Du Bois. His published work includes studies ranging temporally from labour abolition in the antebellum period through to Reconstruction-era labour militancy and onward to the celebrated 1968 Memphis sanitation strike. 

In recent years Kelly’s research interests have shifted to the formative struggles that followed US slave emancipation, and to comparative dimensions of emancipation across the plantation societies of the Americas. He directed the After Slavery Project, an international research collaboration funded by the AHRC, organizing the 2009 Wiles Colloquium (on "Rethinking Reconstruction") and the largest-ever academic conference on the post-emancipation US South, bringing together more than 250 scholars at the College of Charleston in 2010. With Bruce E. Baker he published an edited collection, After Slavery: Race, Labor, and Citizenship in the Reconstruction South, and is working on an extended monograph tentatively titled False Dawn: War and Emancipation in Black-Majority South Carolina

Formerly a Walter Hines Page Fellow at the National Humanities Center in North Carolina, Kelly has held non-residential fellowships at the Institute for Southern Studies (University of South Carolina) and the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University. He has undertaken teaching exchanges in Sau Paulo, Brazil, and Johannesburg, South Africa, and has served on Program Committees and Executive Boards for the Southern Historical Association (SHA), the Labor and American Working Class History Association (LAWCHA) and the Southern Labor Studies Association (SLSA), and as a reader for leading academic journals and university publishers.


Dr Kelly is a Fellow of the UK’s Higher Education Authority (HEA), with extensive experience teaching at Undergraduate and Postgraduate levels and supervising MA and doctoral research projects. He pioneered the (then) School of History’s turn to online learning, received a student-nominated Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2013 and was nominated for ‘Most Inspiring Teaching Staff” in the QUB Student Union Teaching Awards in 2015. He has been critically engaged in ongoing debates about online learning and history pedagogy, and in collaboration with US-based high school educators, heritage workers and historians, organized a series of highly successful workshops on ‘Teaching the New History of Emancipation’. He has been engaged over many years in lectures and workshops for the Irish-medium education sector in Belfast and for the labour movement in Ireland and the UK. Kelly designed and built the After Slavery website, now permanently hosted by the Lowcountry Digital History Initiative at the College of Charleston and recognized as a valuable resource for educators working in African American and Southern labour history.

Responding to the pedagogical challenges and opportunities posed by the emergence of the global Black Lives Matter movement, in 2020-21 Kelly introduced a new topic on the Exploring History module at Level 1 — Atlantic World Slavery and Its Afterlives — and contributes to a second new module, The Long Road to Blacks Lives Matter. Kelly designed and continues to teach on the American South surveys at Level II, and directs two upper-level seminars, After Slavery and The American Civil War & Reconstruction

Dr Kelly has directed research on his broad areas of interest: labour, US southern and African American history. Beyond his immediate expertise he maintains an interest in diverse topics—including modern Irish history and politics, West African society and the transatlantic slave trade, the history of the international Left, and Marxism and historiography—and is willing to supervise any advanced project on related topics. Dr Kelly teaches on the following programmes/modules:



HIS1003: Atlantic World Slavery and Its Afterlives

HIS2028: The American South, 1619-1865

HIS2029: The American South, 1865-1980

HIS3035: The American Civil War & Reconstruction

HIS3082: After Slavery: Race, Labour & Politics in the Post-Emancipation US South


MHY7011: Individually Negotiated Topic

MHY7035: Theory in History

MHY7089: Case Studies (Race and Ethnicity)

MHY7090: Pathways through History


Doctoral Supervision:


Daniel Brown, The Freedman’s Bureau in Reconstruction North Carolina (QUB: 2011)

Conall MacMichael, The Fire This Time: Media, Myth, Memory and the Black Power Movement (QUB: 2014)

Aoife Laughlin, Defining America: The Politics of Citizenship and National Identity in the United States, 1844-1850 (QUB: 2014)

Anne Marie Brosnan, Contested Goals and Competing Interest: Freedpeople’s Education in North Carolina during the Civil War and Reconstruction Era, 1861-1875 (Limerick [External]: 2016)

Lorenzo Costaguta, Which Way to Emancipation? Race and Ethnicity in American Socialist Thought. 1876-1899 (Nottingham [External]: 2016)

Joseph McKee, Hip Hop: a Multi-model and Stylistics Approach (QUB: 2018)


In Progress:

Laura Gillespie, Wartime Contraband Camps and the Development of African American Politics, 1860-1865

Barry Henderson, The Forgotten Tycoon: James McHenry, the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad, 1803-91

Samantha Gowdy, The Arkansas Civil Rights Movement, 1919-1939

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


Dive into the research topics where Brian Kelly is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • 1 Similar Profiles

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or