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About Dr Olly Ayers

Dr Olly Ayers is an Associate Professor 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 Northeastern University London. He has a wide-ranging set of academic interests spanning the histories of racial protest, urban environments and digital spatial analysis. He has served at Director of Graduate Studies and Director of Curriculum Development and helped develop the Global ConnEXions experiential programme for the wider Northeastern network.


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

BA in History, University of Manchester (2008)


Click here to connect with Olly on Orchid.



Dr Olly Ayers's Research

Dr Ayers’s research centres on themes of race, urban space and digital historical analysis. His first monograph, Laboured Protest, was published by Routledge in 2019 and examined Black civil rights activism in the United States during the 1930s and 1940s. He has written numerous articles based on racial protest in American cities in the first half of the twentieth century for journals including The Journal of Urban History and The Journal of American Studies.

Dr Ayers also deploys digital methods in his research, a sample of which are showcased at the Digital Cities Research Network site which he directs. Mapping Black London in World War II began in 2020 and uses Geographic Information Systems to explore the often hidden ways in which London shaped, and was shaped by, diverse Black people at a pivotal moment in international history. Another initiative, the History of St Katharine Docks, uses a Story Map to demonstrate the long-range global historical forces that made the area surrounding Northeastern University London’s London campus. Dr Ayers also co-leads a project with Prof Nicole Aljoe on Ignatius Sancho’s London, one of the eighteenth century’s most important Black Britons. Built with a team of undergraduate research assistants, the project recreates Sancho’s world and its connections to the transformative events shaping the life of the nation and the rest of the world in the eighteenth century. These projects have been supported by a Learning and Research Development Initiative Grant, a $50,000 Tier-1 seed fund award, a CSSH Multigenerational Grant, a NULab Seedling Grant and an award from the NEH. Forthcoming work includes a new co-edited edition of The Letters of Ignatius Sancho for Oxford University Press, a co-authored article looking at networks of slave-ownership among the founders of the St Katharine Docks company and a digital book recovering the long-term Black presence in London before 1950.



‘Mapping Black London in World War II: A Staged Approach to Digital Spatial History’, Digital Scholarship in the Humanities (2022):

‘Philip A. Payton Jr. and the Making of Harlem Revisited’, New York History, 102:2 (2022): 346-370.

‘Fred Trump, the Ku Klux Klan and Grassroots Redlining in Interwar America’, Journal of Urban History, 47:1 (2021): 3-28

‘Jim Crow and John Bull in London: Transatlantic Encounters with Race and Nation during the Second World War’, Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism, 20:3 (2020): 244-266

Laboured Protest: Black Civil Rights in New York City and Detroit during the New Deal and Second World War (New York and London: Routledge, 2019).

‘Black Nationalism and Opposition to Organized Labour in 1930s New York City’, European Journal of American Culture, 34:1 (2015): 5-24

‘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, 48:3 (2014): 797-818


Digital Publications

‘Ignatius Sancho’s London’, online interactive map and digital Story Map, 2022:

‘The History of St Katharine Docks’, digital Story Map exhibit, 2021,

‘Mapping Black London in World War II’, online interactive map hosted alongside blog content, 2020:

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 four courses for the Northeastern University London History degree programme, the Level Five and Six options ‘The Long Civil Rights Movement’ and ‘The City in American Political Life’.