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About Dr Olly Ayers

Dr Olly Ayers is a Lecturer in History. He received a first-class honours degree in history from the University of Manchester before completing a PhD in history at the University of Kent in 2013, where he was a Lecturer in American History before joining NCH. He is a member of the Historians of Twentieth Century United States (HOTCUS) and has a wide-ranging set of academic interests spanning civil rights, urban and labour history as well as modern international political history.



PhD in History, University of Kent, Canterbury (2013)

BA in History, University of Manchester (2008)



Dr Olly Ayers's Research

Dr Ayers’ current work examines civil rights activism in the USA during the 1930s and 1940s, analysing how a variety of black workers and organisations responded to the combined rise of New Deal-era governmental activism and industrial trade unionism. With a special focus on cities in the urban North, this research highlights ways in which these historical developments gave black communities a chance to break down discriminatory barriers but, at the same, created an under-appreciated demand for coordinated protest activism that proved difficult to sustain. Elements of this research have been published in the Journal of American Studies and the European Journal of American Culture, while Dr Ayers is currently completing a monograph that engages with the findings of the influential ‘long’ civil rights thesis and enters an ongoing scholarly debate about the movement’s origins, geographical location and overall impact.

Future work will develop Dr Ayers’ wide-ranging interests into the connections between civil rights, urban and labour history with a project examining how narratives of urban growth, progress, decline and renewal have helped shape the course of modern American political history.


Selected Publications

Academic Monograph
Laboured Protest: Black Civil Rights in New York City and Detroit during the New Deal and Second World War (New York and London: Routledge, 2018).

Scholarly Research Articles:
‘The 1935 Labour Dispute at the Amsterdam News and the Challenges Posed by the Rise of Unionism in Depression-era Harlem’, Journal of American Studies, 48 (2014).

‘Black Nationalism and Opposition to Organized Labour during the 1930s’, European Journal of American Culture, 34 (2015).

Book Reviews
Reviews in Social History, Journal of American Studies, Reviews in History and Australasian Journal of American Studies.


Dr Olly Ayers's Teaching

Teaching Appointments

Lecturer in American History at University of Kent (2013-2014)

Assistant Lecturer in School of History (2010-2013)

Assistant Lecturer in Department of American Studies (2010-2013)


Course Development

Olly has developed two courses in the NCH History degree programme, the Level Five option ‘A Long Civil Rights Movement? Black Political Protest, 1918-1968’ and the Level Six option ‘The City in American Political Life’.  He has also designed the MA courses ‘African Americans and Economic Inequality from Civil War to Civil Rights’ and ‘Applied Public History’.  


Languages Spoken