Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

History and culture of the US South; US popular music; Anglo-American cultural relations; 20th Century African American freedom struggle; medical humanities

Willing to speak to media

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Personal profile



Brian Ward is Professor in American Studies at Northumbria University and a former chair of the British Association for American Studies (2016-19). Previously he held chairs in American Studies at the University of Manchester and in American History at the University of Florida. He has also taught at the Universities of Newcastle upon Tyne and Durham.

Brian has been appointed a Distinguished Lecturer by the Organization of American Historians and serves on the U.S. Library of Congress's Radio Preservation Task Force, where he is a member of the African American and Civil Rights Caucus.

A specialist in the history and culture of the US South, the African American experience, US popular music and radio, the 1960s, and Anglo-American cultural relations, he has published numerous articles and ten books. The books include Just My Soul Responding: Rhythm and Blues, Black Consciousness and Race Relations (1998), which won an American Book Award for Literary Excellence and the Organization of American Historian's James A. Rawley prize for the best book on the history of US race relations; Radio and the Struggle for Civil Rights in the South (2004); and A&R Pioneers: Architects of American Roots Music on Record (2018, with Patrick Huber) which won the Belmont University Award for Best Book on Country Music.

Brian's book Martin Luther King in Newcastle upon Tyne: The African American Freedom Struggle and Race Relations in the North East of England (2017) - 'the most detailed historical account of race relations in the North East yet written' according to a review in North East History, 49, 2018 - served as the foundation for Freedom City 2017, a regional commemoration of Martin Luther King's 1967 visit to Newcastle, and Journey to Justice's 'Footsteps to Freedom' social justice campaign on Tyneside. 

You can read Brian's latest article in the Journal of American Studies ('“He Was Shot because America Will Not Give Up on Racism”: Martin Luther King Jr. and the African American Civil Rights Movement in British Schools') here.

Brian’s next book-length project, She Loves Y’all: The Beatles and the US South, is due to appear in 2024.



Brian's research is primarily in modern US history, with particular interests in the US South, the African American freedom struggle, American music and mass media, and US-UK political and cultural relations (notably British and American popular music). Recently, he has become increasingly interested in the history of sickness, health and medicine in the US South, particularly as they are represented in popular music and other cultural forms. 




A&R Pioneers: The Architects of American Roots Music on Record (2018, with Patrick Huber)

  • Belmont Book Award for Best Book on Country Music
  • Certificate of Merit, Association for the Study of Recorded Sound Collections

Radio and the Struggle for Civil Rights in the South (2004)

  • Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, History Division Book Award  
  • American Library Association, CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title Award

Media, Culture, and the Modern African American Freedom Struggle (2001)

  • Gustavus MyersCenter for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America Outstanding Book Awards (“Honorable Mention” category)

Just My Soul Responding: Rhythm and Blues, Black Consciousness and Race Relations (1998)

  • Organization of American Historians, James A. Rawley Prize for Best Book on US Race Relations
  • European Association for American Studies Network, Best First Book Prize
  • Before Columbus Foundation, American Book Award for Outstanding Literary Achievement
  • American Library Association, CHOICE Outstanding Academic Book Award
  • Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America, Outstanding Book Awards (“Honorable Mention” category)
  • Association of Recorded Sound Collections, Award for Excellence (Finalist)
  • New York Times Book Review, “Notable Book of the Year”

Teaching and Professional

Organization of American Historians, Distinguished Lecturer, 2003-present

Northumbria University Student-Led Awards for Teaching, Nominee, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019

University of Florida, College of Liberal Arts, Teacher of the Year, 2005


Grants and Fellowships Since 2008

Kentucky Historical Society (Loretta Lynn and the Health Environment in Eastern Kentucky), 2018

British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant (The Sick South: Disease, Disability, Dying and Death in an American Region), 2016-18

Leverhulme Trust Personal Research Fellowship (British Music and the US South), 2010-11

Arts and Humanities Research Council, Research Network Grant (Understanding the South, Understanding America), 2008-2010



Brian has supervised to completion 21 PhDs on diverse American Studies topics ranging from Age and Aging in Southern Popular Music in the Early 20th Century to campaigns of Massive Resistance against the Civil Rights Movement in the US South; from the role of Women in the Garveyite Movement to Depictions of Cognitive Disability in Mid-20th Century Southern Fiction; from the Rise of Political Conservatism in Mid-20th Century Texas to Violence and the Gender Politics of Interwar Blues and Country Music; from case studies of the Civil Rights Movement in Little Rock and Nashville to the Role of Religion in Hollywood Representations of the US South; from Contemporary Black and Hispanic Gang Memoirs to Republican Party In-fighting during the 1940s and 1950s; and from British Labour Party Responses to the Vietnam War to Race Relations in the Church of Christ.


As this sample suggests, he is interested in supervising PhD projects on many aspects of modern US history and culture, but particularly on topics connected to the modern US South, the African American experience, media and popular culture, and UK-US cultural relations. 


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

Education/Academic qualification

History, PhD

1 Oct 198530 Jun 1995

Award Date: 30 Jun 1995

American Studies, BA

1 Oct 198430 Jun 1984

Award Date: 30 Jun 1984


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