Brian Purnell

Affiliation: Africana Studies, History
Geoffrey Canada Associate Professor of Africana Studies and History

Brian J. Purnell is the author of Fighting Jim Crow in the County of Kings: The Congress of Racial Equality in Brooklyn (University Press of Kentucky, 2013), which won the New York State Historical Association’s Dixon Ryan Fox Manuscript Prize, and the co-editor (with Jeanne Theoharis) of The Strange Careers of the Jim Crow North: Segregation and Struggle Outside of the South. His research, writing, and teaching areas generally fall within the broad field of US history with specific concentrations in African American history, urban history, and civil rights and black power movement history. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Purnell has called Brunswick, Maine, home since 2010. A scholar and public historian of New York City, he is currently writing a narrative history of Black people in Gotham from 1613 to the Present. The working title is, The Capital of Black America: New York City’s African American History, 1613 to the Present, and it is under contract with Yale University Press. He also has plans to edit and publish a series of oral history interviews he conducted with the late-Jitu Weusi in a book entitled, The Narrative of Jitu Weusi: Brooklyn’s Black Power Educator. Occassionally, he has written shorter pieces that have appeared in Black Perspectives, The North Star, The Washington Post-Made By History, The Conversation, and Common Dreams. 

Curriculum Vitae

Brian Purnell head shot


  • PhD, History, New York University, 2006
  • MA, History, New York University, 2004
  • BA, History and African & African American Studies, Fordham University, 2000