- Atlantic World
- African Diaspora
- U.S. African American
Professor Byrd’s area of expertise is Afro America, especially black life in the Atlantic world and the Jim Crow South. His study of free and forced transatlantic black migration in the period of the American Revolution is entitled Captives & Voyagers. The work follows the two largest streams of free and forced transoceanic black migration across the eighteenth-century British Atlantic world: enslaved black migration to Jamaica and free black migration to Sierra Leone. The book is propelled by the premise that it is possible to gain new purchase on the history of eighteenth-century transatlantic migration by examining free and forced migration together, and by paying careful attention to the social consequences of the actual processes of emigration. Captives and Voyagers was awarded the 2009 Wesley-Logan Prize in African diaspora history (jointly sponsored by the American Historical Association and the Association for the Study of African American Life & History).
Byrd has published essays addressing current debates over the nativity of Olaudah Equiano, and treating the social consequences of violence in the transatlantic slave trade. His essay “Eboe, Country, Nation, and Gustavus Vasa’s Interesting Narrative” was named the 2010 winner of Douglass Adair Memorial Award for best article published in the William and Mary Quarterly during the preceding six years. Byrd's other published work addresses teaching the history of lynching, and explores practicalities of civic engagement in African American studies research. His oral history of Magdalene Dulin is in Remembering Jim Crow: African Americans Tell About Life in the Segregated South. Byrd’s future projects include a history of two high schools in the urban south since the Brown decision (focusing on one school which began the period with an all black student body and another which was all white in the wake of the ruling ).
Byrd regularly offers a lecture and discussion course on The Atlantic World: Origins to the Age of Revolutions; courses exploring The Origins of Afro-America; and a first-year seminar in the School of Humanities on Brown v. Board. With Edward Cox, Dr. Byrd has team taught the survey of Afro American history called Blacks in the Americas. On occasion, he has taught the first half of the American history survey: Early America. In 2006 and 2013, Byrd received the George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching (an honor voted by alumni who graduated two and five years ago). In 2010 he was the recipient of the Presidential Mentoring Award. Byrd is the master of Wiess College.
Professor Byrd has held fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Social Science Research Council, the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton University, and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. He is a member of the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, and a life member of the Southern Historical Association.
- “Violence, Migration, and Becoming Igbo in Gustavus Vassa’s Interesting Narrative.” In Constructing Borders/Crossing Boundaries: Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration, edited by Caroline B. Brettell. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2007.
- “Africans in the Americas.” Review of Slavery and African Ethnnicities in the Americas by Gwendolyn Midlo Hall. H-Atlantic, 21 Aug. 2006
- “Eboe, Country, Nation, and Gustavus Vassa’s Interesting Narrative.” William and Mary Quarterly 63, no. 1 (2006): 123-148.
- “Studying Lynching in the Jim Crow South.” OAH Magazine of History, January 2004, 31-36.
- Fall 2014 Courses
HIST 330: The Transatlantic Slave Trade and the Origins of Afro-America