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Executive Board


Terms ending 2021

Brian Kelly | Queen's University Belfast

Brian Kelly is a lifelong trade unionist active in the University and College Union (UCU) at Queen’s University Belfast. His early research was on interracial unionism in the New South, but in recent years he has focused on the formative struggles that accompanied slave emancipation. His first book, Race, Class and Power in the Alabama Coalfields, 1908-1921  (Illinois, 2001), won a number of awards, including the Southern Historical Association's H. L. Mitchell Prize for an outstanding book in Southern working-class history, and its Frances Butler Simkins Award for the best first book by an author in Southern history. In the years since he has published widely on the problem of racial antagonism and its impact on working-class politics in the US. Formerly a Walter Hines Page Fellow at the National Humanities Center in North Carolina, he holds non-residential fellowships at the Institute for Southern Studies (University of South Carolina) and the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute (Harvard University). He is past director of the After Slavery Project  and is competing a study of black labor in Reconstruction South Carolina.


Sarah McNamara | Texas A&M

Sarah McNamara is Assistant Professor of History and affiliated faculty in the Latina/o, Mexican American Studies Program at Texas A&M University. Her research focuses on Latinx, labor, women and gender, and immigration histories in the modern United States. She is at work on her first book, “From Picket Lines to Picket Fences: Latinas and the Remaking of the Jim Crow South, 1930-1964.” McNamara has two forthcoming articles, “Borderland Unionism: Latina Activism in Ybor City and Tampa, Florida,” which will appear in the 2019 summer issue of the Journal of American Ethnic History, and “A Not-So Nuevo Past: Latina Histories in the U.S. South,” in Labor: Studies in Working Class History as well as a special issue of the JAEH that interrogates the long history of multi-ethnic immigration to the U.S. South. In March 2018, her chapter “Settlement of Ybor City, 1885-1930,” was published in 50 Events that Shaped Latino History. Beyond historical work, McNamara is dedicated to interdisciplinary collaboration and sharing research on Latinx, immigration, and women and gender with a broad audience. She has written for Public SeminarThe Washington Post and published an ethnopoetic piece about the experience of undocumented activists in the U.S. South with South Writ Large. In addition to scholarship, McNamara is dedicated to student and community activism. At Texas A&M, McNamara acts as the faculty to sponsor to CMSA, previously the DREAMAct Club, which advocates for DACA and undocumented students at Texas A&M through collective action and university administrative change. McNamara’s work has received support from the American Historical Association, the American Libraries Association, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, among others.


Susan O'Donovan | University of Memphis

Susan Eva O’Donovan is Associate Professor of History at the University of Memphis and has held appointments with History and African & African American Studies at Harvard University and the Freedmen and Southern Society Project at the University of Maryland. A scholar of nineteenth-century race, labor, and politics, she has written extensively on African American experiences in the post emancipation South. Susan is currently at work on a new project, Becoming Citizens: The Political Lives of Slaves. Under contract with Metropolitan Books, Becoming Citizens explores the relationship between what slaves did for their owners and what they came to know and do for themselves in the years leading up to secession. Susan has served on/chaired numerous university and professional committees; she is co-director of the Memphis Massacre Project; a founding member of the After Slavery Project; and the district coordinator for West Tennessee History Day, an affiliate of National History Day.


Terms ending 2023

Rana Hogarth | University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

Rana Hogarth is associate professor of history at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Her scholarship interrogates the circulation of ideas about racial difference in North America and the Caribbean as they emerged through the language of medicine and its allied fields.  Her first book, Medicalizing Blackness: Making Racial Difference in the Atlantic World, 1780, (University of North Carolina Press, 2017), shows how medical ideas about blackness formed a corpus of knowledge that white physicians drew upon to cultivate their medical authority and professional expertise. It focuses on the process through which physicians invested blackness with medical and practical meaning. Thus, her book shows how white inhabitants of slave societies deployed medical knowledge about Black people’s bodies to improve plantation labor efficiency and safeguard colonial and civic interests.  

She is currently at work on her second book, which examines how myths about mixed-race people that emerged from slave societies in the Southern United States and the Caribbean informed eugenic era discourse. This project specifically takes up the question of how Black people, and mixed race people with Black and white ancestry, became targeted by white eugenicists for study in the early decades of the twentieth century. In answering that question, and others, this project will show how the contexts of slavery, emancipation, Reconstruction, and the “nadir” of race relations influenced the ways in which eugenicists regarded African American and mixed race bodies. In this way, this project will show how legacies of slavery and its aftermath became essential to advancing the eugenicist project of measuring racial intermixture and racial fitness. 


Eladio Bobadilla | University of Kentucky

Dr. Eladio Bobadilla is an assistant professor of history at the University of Kentucky. A Navy veteran and a graduate of Weber State University, he completed his dissertation on the history of the modern immigrants’ rights movement at Duke University in 2019 under the supervision of Dr. Nancy MacLean. While at Duke, he received several major fellowships and grants, including the Gilder Lehrman Scholarly Fellowship, the Mellon Fellowship for Dissertation Research in Original Sources, the Ottis Green Fellowship, a Bass Instructional Fellowship, the John Higham Research Fellowship, and the George Pozzetta Dissertation Award. He is an immigration expert for the Scholars Strategy Network and the recipient of the 2020 Herbert G. Gutman Dissertation Prize. He is currently working on his first book, which will be published as part of the Working Class in American History series of the University of Illinois Press.


Mike Thompson  |University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Mike Thompson is a UC Foundation Associate Professor and Head of the History Department at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He is an active member of UTC’s chapter of United Campus Workers (UCW), and specializes in the history of the American South and slavery, as well as early American social, labor, and maritime history. His first book, Working on the Dock of the Bay: Labor and Enterprise in an Antebellum Southern Port (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2015 hardcover, 2018 paperback), is a study of waterfront labor and laborers in Charleston, South Carolina, between the American Revolution and the Civil War. Mike’s manuscript for this project was awarded the 2011 Hines Prize from the College of Charleston’s Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World (CLAW) Program, for which he now serves as an affiliate faculty member. Working on the Dock of the Bay also was a finalist and runner-up for the South Carolina Historical Society’s 2016 George C. Rogers Jr. Award. He now is working on a project that examines how racialized perceptions of disease susceptibility impacted labor and working people in antebellum southern cities, tentatively titled Working Feverishly: Epidemics and Labor in the Urban Old South. In addition to serving as the History Department’s Internships Coordinator, Mike currently is on UTC’s Council of Academic Department Heads and Institutional Review Board. He has led student study trips to Charleston, South Carolina, and Nashville, Tennessee, and in 2018 received UTC’s ThinkAchieve Award for experiential learning.


Leah LaGrone Ochoa  |Texas Christian University

Leah LaGrone Ochoa is an PhD candidate in History at the Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. She specializes in labor, women, gender, and sexuality, and borderlands history. She taught high school for 10 years before returning to graduate school. She is currently completing her dissertation on the progressive movement that connected prostitution and women’s wages. In A Woman's Worth: Race, Respectability, and Women's Wages, 1919-1921, she examines how the minimum wage legislation for women in Texas shifted from discussion of morality to race, excluding Black and Brown women from the law.  In the past few years, she received several major fellowships and grants to support her research. Texas State Historical Association awarded her the Ellen Clark Temple Research Fellowship. TCU awarded her the coveted Boller Worcester Research Grant. Leah has also written for the Washington Post, NursingClio, and has a chapter in Impeached: The Remover of Governor James E. Ferguson. She will graduate in May 2021 and is under the supervision of Dr. Rebecca Sharpless.




CONTACT Southern Labor Studies Association 

c/o Erik Gellman, SLSA/UNC Liaison

Department of History

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

102 Emerson Drive, CB #3195

Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3195

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