I am an intellectual historian of the 19th and 20th century United States with specializations in African American History and the African Diaspora. Currently, I teach at Vanderbilt University, where I am an assistant professor in the Department of History and an affiliate of the Department of African American and Diaspora Studies.
My first book, The Black Republic: African Americans and the Fate of Haiti (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019), explores the ambivalent attitudes that black intellectuals in the post-Civil War era held toward Haiti. Spanning the Reconstruction, post-Reconstruction, and Jim Crow eras, The Black Republic recovers a crucial and overlooked chapter of black internationalism and political thought.
My scholarship has appeared in numerous journals including The Journal of African American History, Slavery and Abolition, and The Journal of Haitian Studies, and in popular outlets, including The Washington Post. Support for my research has come from several institutions and organizations including Vanderbilt University, Marquette University, the American Philosophical Society, the W.E.B. Du Bois Library at UMass-Amherst, the Marcus Garvey Foundation, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. In 2019-2020, I will be a faculty fellow at Vanderbilt’s Robert Penn Warren Center, participating in a year-long faculty seminar on the theme of “Borders and Belonging.”
I am currently working on two book projects. One, The Abyssinian Prince: A Story of Reinvention in the Age of the New Negro, expands on the story of the self-styled Ethiopian prince told in my recent article in the Journal of African American History. Through an examination of the exceptional, The Abyssinian Princeexplores the possibilities of reinvention and the expansive ideas of racial and class liberation that animated African Americans in the Jazz Age. My other book project, The Hollys: An Afro-Atlantic Story, is a collective biography that covers three generations of a single family as they moved about the nineteenth and twentieth-century United States, Caribbean, and Europe. It examines their encounters with larger political and economic structures—slavery, colonialism, empire, Jim Crow, and dictatorship—while following the more intimate searches for education, work, political allyship, intellectual kinship, love, and dignity that moved them and countless other Black people about the Atlantic World.
In addition to my teaching and research, I am a leader of the African American Intellectual History Society and a co-editor of the Black Lives and Liberation series published by Vanderbilt University Press. You can find me on Twitter @bronaldbyrd.