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Prof 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


Creating and Consuming the American South (co-edited with Martyn Bone and William A. Link), (University Press of Florida, 2015)

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)



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

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

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

To view my 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 relations.

Current/Recent Projects

Brian is completing two books, A&Rchitects of American Roots Music: The Record Producers who Created Blues and Hillbilly Music (co-authored with Patrick Huber) and Martin Luther King Jr in Newcastle upon Tyne. He is also working on an article provisionally called “Sounds Southern?: The Southern Operas of Delius, Davidson and the Drive-By Truckers” and recently started research on a medical humanities project: “The Sick South: Disease, Disability, Dying and Death in an American Region.”

Professional Activity

Brian is currently Chair of the British Association for American Studies. He was a member of the Area Studies Sub-Panel for the 2014 Research Excellence Framework exercise and 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 is a member of the Steering Committee for the “City of Freedom 2017” celebrations which will mark the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s visit to Newcastle, and a member of the Library of Congress Task Force for Radio Preservation. Since 2008, Brian has been a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians.

Sponsors and Collaborators

British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant, (The Sick South Project) 2016-18.

2009-10: Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship

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


Current Teaching Activity

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

Postgraduate Supervision

Brian has supervised or co-supervised 18 completed PhDs on a wide range of American Studies, History, and Literature topics including: 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 Religion in Contemporary Hollywood Films about the US South; Violence and Gender in American Roots Music Between the Wars; Uses of Music in the Irish and Southern Civil Rights Movements; Depictions and Functions of Old Age in American Roots Music.   


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