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Dr. Brian Kelly

photo of Brian Kelly

Dr. Brian Kelly is Reader in History at Queens University Belfast. He earned his Ph.D. at the Brandeis University. A labour historian with a special interest in race and class relations in the post-Civil War South, his early 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. In recent years his research interests have shifted to the formative struggles that followed US slave emancipation. From 2006 to 2010 he directed 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, recognized by leading scholars as an exceptional resource for educators working in African American and Southern labour history, and has been involved in developing related online teaching resources alongside high school teachers in North and South Carolina. With Bruce Baker he co-edited a collection of essays, After Slavery: Race, Labor and Citizenship in the Reconstruction South, published by the University Press of Florida in 2013, and is completing an extended monograph on grassroots black political mobilisation in Reconstruction South Carolina.

Key Publications

  • Race, class, and power in the Alabama coalfields, 1908–1921 (Illinois University Press, 2001)
  • After slavery: race labor and citizenship in the Reconstruction South (University Press of Florida: 2013) with Bruce E. Baker.
  • A Slaveholders’ Republic in the Tumult of War,” Reviews in American History 40:4 (Dec. 2012).
  • “No Easy Way Through: Race Leadership and Black Workers at the Nadir,” in Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas 7:3 (Nov. 2010).
  • “Mapping Alternate Routes to Antislavery,” Contribution to ‘Up for Debate’ in Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas 5:4 (Winter 2008).
  • ‘Emancipations and reversals: labor, race and the boundaries of American freedom in the Age of Capital’ in International Labor and Working Class History (Nov. 2008).
  • 'Labor and place: the contours of freedpeoples’ mobilization in Reconstruction South Carolina’ in Journal of Peasant Studies: Special Issue on ‘Rethinking Agrarian History’ (Nov. 2008).
  • ‘Martin Luther King, the Memphis sanitation strike, and the unfinished business of the American civil rights movement’ in International Socialism Journal 118 (Spring 2008).
  • Bernard Mandel. Labor, free and slave: workingmen and the antislavery movement in the United States (Illinois, 2007) Introduction to reprint.  Link to this publication
  • 'Industrial sentinels confront the "rabid faction"': Booker T. Washington, industrial accommodation, and the labor question in the Jim Crow South' in Eric Arnesen (ed.), The black worker: race and labor activism since emancipation (Illinois, 2006). Link to this publication
  • 'Black workers, the Republican Party, and the crisis of Reconstruction in lowcountry South Carolina' in International Review of Social History, 51:3 (2006). Link to this publication
  • 'Materialism and the persistence of race in the Jim Crow South' in Historical Materialism, 12 (2004).
  • 'Beyond the "Talented Tenth"': black workers, black elites, and the limits of accommodation in industrial Birmingham, 1900–1920' in Adam Green and Charles Payne (eds), Time longer than rope: a century of African-American activism, 1850–1950 (New York, 2003). Link to this publication

Grants and Awards

  • Francis Butler Simkins Award, Southern Historical Association (2001)
  • H. L. Mitchell Award, Southern Historical Association (2001)


To contact Dr. Kelly about a possible Northern Bridge application, please email him at b.kelly@qub.ac.uk, and for more information, please see ????.