Brian Ward

Brian Ward

I am Northumbria University’s first Professor in American Studies and my teaching and research focuses on the modern US South, the African American Experience, and popular music.

Location Newcastle upon Tyne

Activity

  • Interesting and, though I wouldn't presume to speak for David Olusoga, I suspect he wouldn't have much to disagree with in your comments, Julie -- with the caveat, that he'd probably defend, as would I, the idea that any 'national' history of Britiain is seriously compromised if it doesn't pay attention to ethnic and racial diversity, as well as many other...

  • Thanks for the comment, Rose. As I wrote as clearly as I could in the article, you are absolutely right that the underlying cause of Meadow Well was not racism but the perfect storm of deprivations I listed. The point is that once the violence was underway, it frequently took a racial/racist turn that revealed another layer of anxieties and resentments among...

  • Absolutely right, Jane. Appalling working conditions and mega-exploitation, yes; slavery, no. Always slightly confused when people argue that because one person or place was involved in something horrendous less than another person or place, their involvement shouldn't really be examined.

  • Thanks for this, Angela -- I love flushing out these anecdotes, which often speak to bigger issues. I've got a mate working on William Cody's European tours and will see what they know about his NE visits.

  • Wow -- awesome thread! I learned loads from Amanda, Joe D et al who contributed - nobody has a monopoly on knowledge and this is precisely how a community of learners is supposed to function, so thanks. And, yep, non-white is problematic and even scare quotes ('non-white') won't solve some of the problems with the designation, although it was pretty common in...

  • Really interesting to get perspectives from outside the country, let alone outside the region. I was really small when the T. Dan Smith scandals broke, so for my generation that swamped other considerations of his contributions (which were mixed and open to discussion, but certainly not wholly negative, as Connal's talk suggests). Bizarrely, I'm off to lecture...

  • Hi Both,
    Double checked and Ruhi herself definitely thought she was wearing a burka when the incident happened, so that's good enough for me! The photos you saw were almost certainly images from a photo shoot after the event. See, https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/newcastle-metro-passenger-who-racially-10489548.
    Answers/comments...

  • Wow - you guys are way ahead of the pack; we're only on Week 4! Always happy to accept factual corrections and listen to alternative interpretations. Terminology is important, so I'll recheck the newspaper accounts. Transcripts of video talks are automatically generated, and there are occasional glitches (software struggles with my southern accent!)....

  • Like the sensible point Neil makes that 'Stephenson's genius was in his ability to perfect ideas and build on what had gone before.' Very few new inventions or breakthroughs in science, technology, or for that matter the arts and culture are wholly 'new'; most have a lineage and build on previous efforts.

  • Interesting point about the ubiquity of bridges in lots of different courses, Hazel. Maybe we should consolidate them all into one super-bridge MOOC?

  • I like John's Charlton's book a lot -- it was really useful when I started my own work on the deep background to the visits of Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King and Muhammad Ali. His argument is really that the region, like all of Britain, was heavily implicated in the slave trade -- not just making manacles and the wealth some locals got from slave...

  • Interesting again - I actually quite like the idea Amanda has put forward, albeit, I suspect, tongue in cheek. Sadly, nowhere near enough time in our day jobs to do anything so sophsiticated.
    Andy's right. Of course, VIZ doesn't encompass the entirety of Newcastle or NE life; nor is it exactly brimful of positive images of the area, though it does have a...

  • That was a fascinating discussion, Hazel, You might enjoy learning a little more at
    https://theconversation.com/frederick-douglass-the-ex-slave-and-transatlantic-celebrity-who-found-freedom-in-newcastle-90886

  • Fair enough, but not everywhere Douglass visited in the UK has a memorial commemorating his time there, or can trace a long series of connections to the African American freedom struggle from Equiano to Martin Luther King and Muhammad Ali, as we'll see in later steps.

  • That's very kind, Janet -- we are only too aware of how much we had to leave out to fit into a 5-week format that wasn't actually a full-time job for all our learners. It was especially tough to omit a lot of fascinating pre-1500 history and culture, because we wanted to focus on more modern material. Maybe another MOOC - though some of our learners are rising...

  • Penshaw is a very good shout, David.

    Isn't the old DLI museum now home to Wylam Brewary and a music venue? Nice to see another example of local entrepreneurial activity apparently thriving - and, if I'm right, good use of a fascinating building. I think some of the DLI artefacts may have found their way to the Discovery Museum.

    Great thing about these...

  • Great choice! The man was a legend...

  • Good choice - especially in the 100th year since (some) women in the UK got the vote. If you haven't already found it, it's well worth looking at Matt Perry's biography of 'Red" Ellen for more on this remarkable woman.

  • Interesting line of enquiry. We actually had very similar questions from some learners on the American South course who came from the region and were hostile to any media depictions of southerners that stereotyped or caricatured less appealing aspects of southern life. They tended to focus on the negative portrayals we included (Deliverance, True Blood, etc)...

  • Good original choice, Steven And if we look closely at the blue star on the Newcastle Brown Ale bottle label, we can see the silhouette of the Newcastle skyline, so doubly good choice...

  • Spooky...It was a fabulous occasion. Good to mark the connections between the region and the long African American freedom struggle as that's a story too few people on either side of the Atlantic really know.

  • Good point, Ursula -- and she'd almost certainly be earning more if she was a man...Prejudices work out in all manner of ways!

  • Good call on Rhiannon Giddens, Gerard - and on Beyoncé's maturation. I'll wager good money that in years to come she'll be considered one of the most significant as well as one of the most popular US artists of the early 21st Century...But less sure how often the southern coordinates of much of her most significant work will be appreciated - except by folks...

  • Good to add some other viewing options, Claire - time and space are always against us, but that's where our learners can contribute. Of course, none of these reality shows are exactly exercises in documentary realism, rather they are generally as carefully staged and even more carefully edited than many 'fictional' programmes (but a lot cheaper to make than a...

  • As a few of you have already noted, Billy Graham passed away today (Feb 21, 2018). Regardless of where one stands on the particulars of his ministry, he was a very significant figure in southern, US and global culture and clearly for some people hugely inspirational and influential.

  • Good line of discussion, guys. There's been a huge interest in how religion plays in and out of the civil rights story of the 1950s and 1960s and the conclusions are complex. Clearly there were some diehard segregationists who turned to the Bible to justify their defense of Jim Crow (lots of stuff about the 'Curse of Ham' and 'separating sheep from goats);...

  • I think the point was more that people in positions of power in the recording industry and -- to a large extent -- consumers between the wars had pretty firm ideas about what female and male singers and musicians were 'supposed' to sound like and they were often marketed accordingly. Of course, you're absolutely right. Maria, that Memphis Minnie is just one...

  • Good call, Monica. Take a look at https://ferris.edu/jimcrow/origins.htm - it'll also be useful for when we look at southern museums and heritage sites in a late week. Be warned, there are some crude racial stereotypes at work in the images on display here.

  • Thanks, Emma -- couldn't wish for a better endorsement. Some of this material is hard to work through and troubling -- but, then again, so is much of the daily news!

  • Nicely explained, Julia -- though the real fear is of how often ignorance and bigotry wrap themselves in the guise of sincerely held opinions, as if that somehow excuses or legitimises opinions that are, well, ignorant and bigoted! Happy to see this cohort of learners are suitably feisty and opinionated, but also, by-and-large informed and eager to learn and...

  • Great question, Claire - and one which historians have grappled with for years. The answer seems to be that in different places at different times all of the groups you mention had considerable economic and with it political power in the New South -- even the heirs of some of the large plantation owners who had lost their slave property during the Civil War....

  • Nice summary, Rohan,

  • Good question. I think the term 'Lost Cause' was actually coined by a Virginia historian, Edward Pollard, as early as 1866, but the idea was popularised in the hugely popular novels of Thomas Nelson Page (try 'In Ole Virginia' from 1887 or ''The Old South' from 1892) and countless others, as well as through the efforts of groups like the Kappa Alpha...

  • A nice, thought-provoking comment, Matthew. Of course, the irony for those in the South who were anxious about the unwelcome reach of federal authority is that the Confederate government, was far more intrusive into the everyday lives of its citizens than federal government had ever been. Wartime needs meant the draft, tighter government controls on...

  • Good catch, Isla -- should read correctly, now.

  • Roughly 7.5million Germans came to the US between 1820 and 1870, forming the basis of what remained the largest ancestry group claimed by Americans in 2016, though that's not really relevant to Elkin's 1959 thesis. His comparison of the effect of slavery to the 'infantilisation" observed among the victims of Nazi concentration camps was hugely controversial...

  • Interesting, though it clearly matters quite a lot to Native Americans that their long struggle to resist the onslaught of European powers is recognised and respected. Historians spend a lot of their time trying to complicate the past because, well, because history is complicated and even amid the worst kinds of oppression there are stories, sometimes...

  • A thoughtful, nuanced and informed comment, David.

  • I'm a big fan of 'ACOD,' too, Phil -- glad it's getting some plugs from you and a few other learners!
    A couple of other good southern reads that I'd recommend and that are a little off the beaten literary track are Cynthia Shearer, 'The Celestial Jukebox' (a treat for those who love music, too), Jack Butler, 'JuJitsu for Christ' (a tale set in 1960s...

  • Fascinating and laudably balanced, Layla. One of the joys of the course is that inside/outsider views tend to compliment each other, building up a collective sense of the South, real and imagined.

  • Nice idea to trace the evolution of Elvis's style through one song, Theo. Suspect the Brits who reckon that Elvis was seen primarily as 'American' rather than 'southern' are right -- but in 1956-8, lots of the British press, music and mainstream, made sure to render his statements/interviews phonetically to make sure nobody was in much doubt as to which region...