2023 Annual Lecture

We were delighted to welcome Brian Ward as this year's speaker at our 2023 Annual Lecture. Professor in American Studies at Northumbria University, Brian started his career in the North East teaching at the Universities of Durham and Newcastle. He went on to hold chairs at the Universities of Florida and Manchester. His ten books include Just My Soul Responding: Rhythm and Blues, Black Consciousness, and Race Relations (1998 - winner of an American Book Award and the Organization of American Historians’ James A. Rawley Prize for the best book on US Race Relations) and A&R Pioneers: Architects of American Roots Music on Record (2018: co-authored with Patrick Huber, which won the Belmont Prize for the best book on country music). He is also author of Martin Luther King in Newcastle upon Tyne: The African American Freedom Struggle and Race Relations in the North East of England, praised as “The most detailed historical account of race relations in the North East yet written.” Brian is currently completing She Loves Y’All: The Beatles and the American South for publication in late 2024

Brian's talk revealed the circumstances surrounding Martin Luther King  Jr’s remarkable trip to Newcastle upon Tyne in November 1967 – his last trip outside the United States before his murder in April 1968 and the only time he visited anywhere in the UK outside London. Along the way, we encountered bureaucratic incompetence, mistaken identity, a catering crisis, lost and surviving film footage, the local press,and local security arrangements.

Brian fitted King's visit into a long, largely forgotten history that connects the North East of England to the African American freedom struggle in the US. This included a visit by Mohammed Ali, but more importantly the earlier anti-slavery movement that first provided support for African Americans in the north east.

Photos below, clockwise: Brian Ward; King with Newcastle University's Chancellor (Duke of Northumberland, attendance depending on King's release from gaol [sic]); Mohammed Ali; Martin Luther King in Newcastle.

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