• 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


Research activity per year

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Personal profile


Brian Kelly is one of three historians in the School of History & Anthropology specialising in the US South. A labour historian with a special interest in race and class relations 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 a number of 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 widely on the problem of racial antagonism and its impact on working-class politics in the US, with studies that range from labour abolition in the antebellum period through to the 1968 Memphis sanitation strike, during which the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Formerly a Walter Hines Page Fellow at the National Humanities Center in North Carolina, he holds non-residential fellowships at the Institute for Southern Studies (University of South Carolina) and the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute (Harvard University).

In recent years his research interests have shifted to the formative struggles that followed US slave emancipation. He directs the After Slavery Project, an international research collaboration funded by the AHRC. With project partners Bruce Baker and Susan O'Donovan he designed and built the After Slavery website, now recognized by leading international scholars as an exceptional resource for historians and educators working in African American and Southern labor history. He organized the 2008 Wiles Colloquium, on "Rethinking Reconstruction," and a major conference on "Race, Labor and Citizenship in the Post-emancipation South," held at the College of Charleston (South Carolina) in March 2010. He is completing an edited collection based on the Wiles papers and working on an extended monograph on grassroots political mobilisation in Reconstruction South Carolina.


Brian Kelly is PI on an AHRC-funded research collaboration, the After Slavery Project. The project has hosted two major international conferences: the Ninth Wiles Colloquium, held at QUB in October 2008, and the Conference on Race, Labor and Citizenship in the Post-Emancipation South, held at the College of Charleston in South Carolina in March 2010.The AS Project has curated several major exhibits, including one at the Linen Hall Library in 2008 and a second, which was launched in Charleston in the spring of 2010 and which will travel throughout public schools in the Carolinas. Current information on the AS Project can be found at www.afterslavery.com .

Research Statement

Brian has published widely on the problem of racial antagonism and its impact on working-class politics in the U. S., with articles ranging from the antebellum period through to the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike, during which the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated. His current work combines a long-term commitment to labour history with an interest in the formative struggles that followed U. S. slave emancipation: he is working on a labor history of South Carolina during Reconstruction and has published a number of related articles. With project partners Bruce Baker and Susan O'Donovan he is designing and building the After Slavery website which, when completed, will provide an important resource for scholars working in African American and Southern labor history. He will be on leave during the spring semester 2009.


Brian teaches on the American South survey at Level II and on two upper level seminars, After Slavery and The American Civil War & Reconstruction—both documents-based seminars. As director of the After Slavery Project, he oversaw the conceptual design and edited the content of the After Slavery website (www.afterslavery.com), now the leading eductional website for teaching the post-emancipation period in US university and college classrooms, and currently being extended to secondary-level education. He has been critically engaged in ongoing debates about online learning and history pedagogy, and continues to address the challenges facing educators in a changed learning environment in print and in conferences and seminars. Brian oversees undergraduate student exchanges between QUB and two HE institutons in the US, and contributes to the highly successful US pathway on the MA program. He has directed research on his areas of interest and is willing to supervise any advanced project on topics related to American social history. Dr Kelly teaches on the following programmes/modules:



HIS2028: The American South, 1619-1865
HIS2029: The American South, 1865-1980
HIS3082: After Slavery: Race, Labour and Politics in the Post-Emancipation US South
HIS3035: The American Civil War & Reconstruction



HIS7035: Themes in American Historiography
HIS7056: Topics in US History



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