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Professor Brian Ward

Professor in American Studies

Department: Humanities

Brian is a historian of the modern US South, the civil rights movement, popular music, the 1960s, and Anglo-American cultural relations.

ADSS Brianward Facultystaff 255

Brian is Northumbria University’s first Professor in American Studies. Previously, he held the Chair in American Studies at the University of Manchester (2006-2012), served as Head of the Department of History at the University of Florida (2000-2006), and taught at the Universities of Newcastle upon Tyne (1991-2000) and Durham (1990-91). He is currently Chair of the British Association for American Studies.

Campus Address

Office: Lipman 415

0191 243 7060


PhD History, University of Cambridge, 1996

BA (Hons) American Studies, University of East Anglia, 1984

Key Publications

Brian has published 10 books and many articles and book chapters. A sample of his most significant and most recent publications includes:

[with Patrick Huber], A&R Pioneers: Architects of American Roots Music on Record (Vanderbilt University Press/Country Music Hall of Fame, 2018)

Sounds Southern?: The Southern Operas of Delius, Davidson and the Drive-By Truckers (British Library, 2017)

Martin Luther King in Newcastle: The African American Freedom Struggle and Race Relations in the North East of England (Tyne Bridge Publishing, 2017)

“Sounds and Silences: Music and the March on Washington,” German Historical Institute Bulletin, 11, (2015), pp.25-48

“Grand Theories and Granular Practices: The South and American Studies,” Journal of American Studies, 48, 3, (2014), pp. 723-733

“Music, Musical Theater and the Imagined South in Interwar Britain,” Journal of Southern History, LXXX, 1 (2014), pp. 39-72

“Caryl Phillips, David Armitage, and the Place of the American South in the Atlantic and Other Worlds,” in The South and the Atlantic World, eds. Brian Ward, Martyn Bone and William A. Link (University Press of Florida, 2013), pp. 8-44

“That White Man, Burdon: The Animals, Race and the American South” in (eds), Jill Terry and Neil A. Wynn, Transatlantic Roots Music: Folk, Blues and National Identities (University of Mississippi Press, 2012), pp.153-178

“‘The "C" Is for Christ’: Arthur Unger, Datebook Magazine, and the Beatles,” Popular Music and Society, 35, 4 (2012), pp.541-560

“‘A Curious Relationship’: Barack Obama, the 1960s, and the Election of 2008,” Patterns of Prejudice, 45, 1-2, (2011), pp.15-42. Reprinted in (ed.) Richard H. King (ed), Obama and Race: History, Culture, Politics (Routledge, 2012)

“Broadcasting Truth to Power: The American Friends Service Committee and the Early Southern Civil Rights Movement,” Quaker Studies, 10, 1 (September 2005), pp. 87-108

Radio and the Struggle for Civil Rights in the South (University Press of Florida, 2004; paperback, 2006)

Just My Soul Responding: Rhythm and Blues, Black Consciousness and Race Relations (UCL Press/University of California Press, 1998)


To view his Northumbria Research Link page click here

Research Themes and Scholarly Interests

Brian’s teaching and research focuses on the modern US South, the African American Experience (particularly the civil rights and black power movements), popular music, the mass media, America in the 1920s and 1960s, and various aspects of Anglo-American cultural and racial relations. He is also developing new research projects on the Kennedys, the Beatles, and the intersections of health and popular culture in the US South.

Current and Recent Projects

A&R Pioneers: Architects of American Roots Music on Record (co-authored with Patrick Huber), Vanderbilt University Press/Country Music Hall of Fame, due June 2018)

Brian has recently started a medical humanities project (“The Sick South: Disease, Disability, Dying and Death in an American Region”) supported by a British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant. He is working on his first conference presentation and article in this field, provisionally titled: ‘“Borned in Butcher Holler”: Loretta Lynn and the Health Environment in Mid-20th Century Rural Kentucky.’

Postgraduate Supervision

Brian has supervised or co-supervised 19 completed PhDs on a wide range of American Studies, History, and Literature topics including: Religion in Contemporary Hollywood Films about the US South; The Civil Rights Movement in South Carolina; Black and Hispanic Gang Memoirs; the Harlem Novels of Chester Himes; Agency in the Left Behind Novels; Black Preachers in the Antebellum South; Jewish Identity in Mid-Twentieth Century American Popular Culture; Black Activism in Little Rock, Arkansas; Massive Resistance in the US South; The British Labour Party and the Vietnam War; Radio and Civil Rights; Race Relations in Nashville; Violence and Non-Violence in the US Civil Rights Movement; Women in the Garveyite Movement; Race Relations in the Churches of Christ; the Rise of Modern Conservatism in Texas; the Southern Intellectual Roots of Modern Conservatism; Republican Party Infighting in the 1940s and 1950s; Cognitive Disability in Southern Modernist Fiction.

Current PhD students at Northumbria working with Brian are writing dissertations on; Violence and Gender in American Roots Music Between the Wars; Uses of Music in the Northern Irish and Southern US Civil Rights Movements; Depictions and Functions of Old Age in American Roots Music.  

Teaching Interests

Brian teaches undergraduate modules on the African American Freedom Struggle Since 1945 and America in the 1960s, as well as contributing to a range of other History and American Studies modules at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Funding Awards and Fellowships

2018: Kentucky Historical Society Research Fellowship (Loretta Lynn and Health in Kentucky)

2016-2018: British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant, (The Sick South Project)

2009-10: Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship

2008-10: Arts and Humanities Research Council, Research Network Grant (Understanding the South, Understanding America)

1995-96: Postdoctoral Fellow, Carter G. Woodson Institute, University of Virginia

Affiliations and Membership

Brian is currently Chair of the British Association for American Studies and serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Southern History. He was a member of the Area Studies Sub-Panel for the 2014 Research Excellence Framework exercise and will serve in the same capacity for REF 2021. He was the main historical advisor for the Journey to Justice project on links between struggles for social justice in the US and UK which was launched in Newcastle in Spring 2015 and is now touring the UK. He was a member of the Steering Committee for the Freedom City 2017 celebrations which used his research to mark the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s visit to Newcastle. Since 2008, Brian has been a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians. 


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