Skip to main content

Assistant Dean Blair Kelley to Take New Role

A brick sidewalk/pathway in the middle of the court of North Carolina.

After 20 years at NC State and eight years as the college’s assistant dean for interdisciplinary studies and international programs, history professor Blair Kelley is stepping down. Kelley is taking a new role as director of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Center for the Study of the American South and co-director of the Southern Futures Initiative.  

Kelley first joined NC State as a faculty member in the Department of History in 2002 and was named to her current post in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences in 2014. 

Blair Kelley
Blair Kelley.

“As a leader, Blair has been instrumental in growing our college’s long-standing commitment to interdisciplinary studies and international programs,” says Deanna Dannels, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “She has been a champion for interdisciplinarity across the college and university, while at the same time engaging thoughtfully with the particular intricacies and complexities that accompany such work. In doing this, she has provided faculty and students with multiple opportunities to engage with each other in ways difficult within traditional disciplinary infrastructures.

“Additionally, her work with international programs spotlighted the importance of increasing access to international experiences such as study abroad for our underrepresented students — providing key resources and opportunities that have made a difference in students’ lives and career paths.” 

Widely recognized as a top scholar in her field, Kelley’s work explores the history of the African-American experience as a whole, including the social movements in which ordinary people reshaped their political world. 

Active inside the academy and out, Kelley has produced and hosted her own podcast and has been a guest on CNN, MSNBC, NPR and WUNC, among other networks. She has written for The New York Times, the Washington Post, The Root, The Grio, Ebony, Salon, and Jet Magazine. And in the social media realm, Kelley was among the first generation of historians active on Twitter and has been tweeting for more than 12 years to more than 47,000 followers.

Her first book, Right to Ride: Streetcar Boycotts and African American Citizenship in the Era of Plessy v. Ferguson, won the Letitia Woods Brown Best Book Award from the Association of Black Women Historians. In 2020, she received a Whiting Foundation Creative Nonfiction Grant for her second book, Black Folk: The Promise of the Black Working Class, which she’ll continue to work on as a 2022-23 fellow at the National Humanities Center. 

In addition to her scholarship, Kelley has been a valued educator and mentor to countless NC State students. Her teaching accolades include being named a 2022 recipient of the NC State Alumni Distinguished Graduate Professor Award. Kelley also previously served as director of graduate programs in the history department, overseeing and administering the master’s programs in history and public history. 

Kelley received her B.A. from the University of Virginia in History and African and African American Studies, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in History from Duke University.

Before starting her new position at UNC, Kelley will remain a professor in the history department through the fall semester — during which time she’ll be on a fellowship at the National Humanities Center. 

As part of a recent reclassification, the position of assistant dean of interdisciplinary studies and international programs is now associate dean of interdisciplinary affairs and partnerships. That role is currently filled in the interim by history professor Susanna Lee.