Brian Kelly (historian)

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Brian Kelly is a U.S.-born historian and a Reader in American History teaching at Queen's University Belfast in Northern Ireland/the north of Ireland. His work is concerned mainly with labor and race in the American South, although much of his most recent scholarship focuses on the aftermath of slave emancipation.

Between 2010 and 2015 he directed an international collaborative research project, After Slavery: Race, Labor, and Politics in the Post-Emancipation Carolinas with project partners Bruce E. Baker (Newcastle) and Susan E. O'Donovan (Memphis). He has held fellowships at the National Humanities Center (NC), the Institute for Southern Studies of the University of South Carolina and the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University. He is a faculty affiliate of the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World Program (CLAW) at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. Awarded his doctorate at Brandeis University for a disseration supervised by Prof. Jacqueline Jones, Kelly has published widely on race and class in the nineteenth and twentieth-century United States, including an award-winning book on working-class interracialism in the Birmingham district (Alabama) coal mines, Race, Class, and Power in the Alabama Coalfields, 1908-1921 (University of Illinois Press, 2001, ISBN 0252069331) and an extended introduction to the reissue of Bernard Mandel's Old Left classic, Labor, Free and Slave. In March 2010 Kelly and the After Slavery Project hosted the Conference on Race, Labor, and Citizenship in the Post-Emancipation South at the College of Charleston, out of which came a co-edited volume (with Bruce E. Baker), After Slavery: Race, Labor and Citizenship in the Reconstruction South, with essays by leading historians in the field. An up-to-date list of his publications is available online at [2].

Kelly came into academia after extended stints in the construction and shipbuilding industries, and has been a labor activist over many years. He is active in the University and College Union (UCU) and has served in various roles on the local branch committee at Queen's University Belfast. He is active in socialist politics in Belfast, where he is a prominent supporter of People Before Profit, and maintains an interest in contemporary Irish and US politics. He wrote the foreword to Seán Mitchell's study of the 1932 Outdoor Relief Riots, Struggle or Starve: Working-Class Unity in Belfast 1932 Outdoor Relief Riots.

Published works [Partial][edit]


  • Race, Class, and Power in the Alabama Coalfields, 1908-1921 (University of Illinois Press, 2001).
    • This book won four major awards and was selected as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2001 by Choice Magazine. The Southern Historical Association awarded it the H. L. Mitchell Prize for an outstanding book in Southern working-class history and the Frances Butler Simkins Award for the best first book by an author in Southern history. It won the Richard L. Wentworth Prize for History from the University of Illinois Press and the Isaac and Tamara Deutscher Memorial Prize for new and innovative scholarship in or about the marxist tradition. It is found in almost 500 WorldCat libraries.[1]
    • Reviewed by N Ahmed in: Economic History Review 55, Part 2 (2002): 379
    • Reviewed by G. Feldman in: The Journal of American history. 91, no. 3, (2004): 1066
    • Reviewed by A. Draper in Labor History, 43, Part 4 (2002): 561
    • Reviewed by Robert H. Zieger in International Review of Social History 47, Part 3 (2002): 501
    • Reviewed by J. White in Ethnic and Racial Studies 26, Part 1 (2003): 200
    • Reviewedby J. H. M. Laslett in International Labor and Working Class History no. 64, (2003): 219-220


  • 'Mapping Alternate Routes to Antislavery' – Contribution to ‘Up for Debate’ in Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas 5:4 (Winter 2008): 69-73.
  • ‘Emancipations and Reversals: Labor, Race, and the Boundaries of American Freedom in the Age of Capital’. International Labor and Working Class History (Nov. 2008).
  • 'Labor and Place: The Contours of Freedpeoples’ Mobilization in Reconstruction South Carolina'. 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’. International Socialism Journal 118 (Spring 2008).
  • '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).
  • 'Black workers, the Republican Party, and the crisis of Reconstruction in lowcountry South Carolina'. International Review of Social History 51:3 (2006).
  • '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).



  1. ^ [1]

External links[edit]