Improving the knowledge and understanding of the African American freedom struggle by educators, school and undergraduate students and the public from the research by Professor Kevern Verney on black civil rights and race relations in the United States.
Submitting InstitutionEdge Hill University
Unit of AssessmentHistory
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Human Society: Political Science, Sociology
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies
Summary of the impact
a) Educational — improving the performance of school students in
coursework and the knowledge and understanding of teachers and
undergraduates at other HEIs. Dissemination by talks to schools, online
publications and books and articles targeted at schools and undergraduate
b) The General Public — improving public knowledge and awareness
through radio appearances, public lectures, online and book publications
for non-academic audiences.
Reach: Direct, quantifiable contact (schools/lecture
audiences, online `hits', single-authored books sales) at least 5,500
people. In excess of 160,000 if other reach is included — sales figures
for journals, essay collections, radio programmes where Verney was a
Research underpinning this case study was undertaken by Verney at Edge
Hill University between 1998 and 2013. Verney joined Edge Hill in 1989 and
has been continuously employed at Edge Hill to the present date. He is
currently Associate Dean (Research) in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
In recent years historians have stressed the importance of the `long
civil rights movement', moving away from an emphasis on the events of the
1950s and 1960s. There has been recognition of the need to research the
antecedents of the post-war civil rights movement. The National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), as the leading
civil rights organization in this period, has been the subject of
increasing scholarly attention. Verney's work has focused attention on the
work of NAACP branches at state and local level which have been neglected
in the existing civil rights historiography.
Civil rights historians have also moved away from a `King-centric'
approach — shifting attention from national civil rights leaders to the
vital contributions made by lesser known local activists. Alabama was
central to the twentieth century civil rights struggle. For much of this
time John LeFlore was the leading civil rights campaigner in the state,
yet is barely mentioned in civil rights histories. Verney's work (3v)
corrects this omission, focusing attention on the civil rights struggle in
Mobile, a city often overlooked because of the attention devoted to other
urban centres in the state. Donna Baker, Editor in Chief, Alabama Heritage
and Acquisitions Editor for History, The University of Alabama Press,
e-mailed: `I want to congratulate you on your very fine article in the
July 2013 Alabama Review on John LeFlore and thank you for
bringing attention to a character we have overlooked in our civil rights
history'. She invited Verney to contribute a full-length monograph on
Verney's historiographical work (3ii) attracted favourable
reviews and, when published, was the only up to date, full-length, study
of the historiography of the civil rights struggle.
More recently, Verney's research has focused on Barack Obama. He compared
2008 with Jesse Jackson's earlier campaigns for the Presidency to assess
why Obama won and Jackson lost, and what this revealed about the changing
role of race in electoral politics (3iv). He questioned the claims
made by many commentators in the aftermath of Obama's victory that race no
longer played a significant role in U.S. political life.
Since 2010 Verney has been co-investigator for an AHRC Research Network
on Obama. His latest research (3vi) examines the public debate on
immigration to the United States. He challenges claims by commentators
like Pat Buchanan and Samuel Huntingdon, that present day immigration is
fundamentally different from historical experience. He also examines the
nation's changing demography. By 2042 white Americans will no longer be a
majority of the U.S. population. It has been argued by some that this will
bring an end to white domination of U.S. political life. His research
questions the validity of such predictions.
References to the research
All outputs are assessed as being 2* minimum. Outputs iii), iv), v) and
vi) are submitted in REF 2. Outputs i) and ii) were submitted to RAE 2008.
All outputs available on request.
Output ii) has been positively reviewed by Dr Lee Sartain, then at the
University of Nottingham: "...Verney has achieved a virtually
impossible task with a breadth of knowledge and intimacy of style that
will entertain, inform and challenge the reader".
Verney's co-edited essay collection (Output iii) was commended by Manfred
Berg, a world leading authority on the subject, in the Journal of
American History as the most important work published on the NAACP
during its centenary year. The collection received favourable reviews in a
range of scholarly/non-scholarly publications, including commendations for
Verney's essay on Alabama. On Output vi) (arising from work undertaken
under an AHRC Network Award) Stephen Burman of the University of Sussex
writes "Arising from a powerful collaborative research network, this
book provides us with a sobering perspective on the unfolding of the
dreams and hopes generated by Obama's election in 2008. It is rich in
interdisciplinary perspectives that bring together diverse issues into
the most coherent and comprehensive analysis yet of the Obama story so
far." (See Section 5, Other Source 6).
i) Authored Book: Kevern J. Verney, The Art of the Possible: Booker
T. Washington and Black Leadership in the United States,
1881-1925 (New York: Routledge, 2001).
ii) Authored Book: Kevern J. Verney, The Debate on Black Civil Rights
in America (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2006).
iii) Edited Book; Chapter in Book: Kevern J. Verney and Lee Sartain
(eds.), Long is the Way and Hard: One Hundred Years of the NAACP
(Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2009). In addition to being
the lead author of the introduction Verney contributed a single essay,
`"To Hope Till Hope Creates": The NAACP in Alabama, 1913-1945', xv-xxviii,
iv) Journal article: Kevern J. Verney, `Change We Can Believe In? Barack
Obama, Race and the 2008 Presidential Election', International
Politics, 48, Numbers 2-3 (March-May, 2011), 344-363. DOI
v) Journal Article: Kevern Verney, `"Every Man Should Try": John L.
LeFlore and the NAACP in Mobile, Alabama, 1919-1956', The Alabama
Review, 66, No. 3 (July, 2013), 186-210.
vi) Edited Book; Chapter in Book: Mark Ledwidge, Kevern Verney and
Inderjeet Parmar (eds.), Barack Obama and the Myth of a Post-Racial
America (London and New York: Routledge, 2013). Edited essay
collection with contributors from Britain, Europe and the United States.
In addition to being the author of the introduction Verney contributed a
single essay, `The Final Frontier: Barack Obama and the Vision of a
Post-Racial America', vii-xiii, 116-132.
Details of the impact
In recent years the black freedom struggle in the United States has had
increasing prominence on `A' level courses and enjoyed growing popularity
as a subject option with sixth formers. Verney regularly receives requests
from schools to speak about his research. From 1 January 2008-31 July 2013
he gave lectures at 12 events for schools. This included a one day schools
conference on the Obama Presidency at the British Library, London, in
March 2013 for which Verney was co-organizer and a chair for two panels.
All schools work was related to topics on `A' level courses. The Heads of
History in section 5 (Factual Statements 1-3) have confirmed that
the visits had a direct impact in improving student performance. The Head
of History at Winstanley College (Factual Statement 3) wrote `your
lecture...inspired the students to research a range of sources and to
engage with historiography on King in their studies. In addition, by
mentioning alternative leaders to King...this prompted some to further
research their impact on the movement. Therefore a number of students
achieved full marks in this module'. The student secretary of the
Winstanley History Society noted Verney's contribution was `exceptionally
valuable to students writing their coursework and provided a brilliant
explanation of the different historical viewpoints on the civil rights
Verney has published two student texts that are widely used in schools
(Other Source 1):
Black Civil Rights in America (Routledge, 2000), sales 1.1
African Americans and U.S. Popular Culture (Routledge, 2003),
Although a monograph 3ii is used in schools and undergraduate
courses because of its historiographical focus. All three books have been
continuously in print since their initial publication. Black Civil
Rights In America alone earned £2,322.91 in royalties from
photocopying in schools during the census period (Other Sources 2, 3).
Verney's works are used as recommended texts on a range of undergraduate
courses at other HEIs, for example, the Universities of East Anglia,
Heidelberg (as one example, Other Source 4) Liverpool, Manchester and
In recommending his text on popular culture Donna Gilton, Professor of
Library Science at the University of Rhode Island, wrote: `Any student of
African American history or cultural studies will find this a fascinating
and highly useful book' (Other Source 5).
Verney has published a number of articles in books/journals specifically
targeted at school audiences. These include New Perspective, 14,
No.1 (September 2008); History Teaching Review, The Yearbook
of the Scottish Association of Teachers of History (2010); and the
online resource Milestones Documents in African American History
(2010) available at:
Verney receives regular invitations to contribute to book/journal
publications as a direct result of his research, for example from Jonathan
Este, Politics Editor of the Conversation, resulting in the two
articles listed in b.
b) The General Public
The Obama Research Network, for which Verney is
Co-Organizer/Investigator, is committed to public engagement and dialogue
between scholarly researchers and the wider community. The Network
Steering Committee includes representatives from the International Slavery
Museum (ISM) Liverpool, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), as well
as a schools representative. Commenting on 3vi Stephen Burman from
the FCO stated:
`It is rich in interdisciplinary perspectives that bring together diverse
issues into the most coherent and comprehensive analysis yet of the Obama
story so far'. (Other Source 6)
The Network was funded by a £31,320 award over three years from the AHRC
which specifically uses impact criteria in the allocation of Network
awards. In addition to the British Library Schools Conference in a) other
impact related contributions by Verney for the Network include:
A blog on the 2012 U.S. elections at http://blogs.edgehill.ac.uk/uselections/
An interview on Radio Merseyside in October 2010 and two
interviews on Radio Lancashire on the 2012 U.S. elections in
October/November 2012. The last interview took place on the morning after
the election. The average audience for the three interviews was 50,000.
A lecture to the Ormskirk Historical Society (October 2011) and a public
lecture at Edge Hill in January 2013.
On 24 May 2013 Verney published an online article, `End of the Affair?
Barack Obama and the Liberal News Media', in The Conversation. By
31 July this had been read by 818 people with the following distribution
as of 1 October: Australia 48.8% (411); USA 20.5 (173); UK 15.4% (130);
Canada 3.8% (32); Other 11.4% (96). (Other Source 7).
On 28 June 2013 Verney published an online article `Communication
Failure, "Brand Obama" Tired and Tarnished' in The Conversation.
By 31 July this had been read by 713 people with the following
distribution as of 1 October: Australia 43.5% (350); USA 15.9% (128); UK
14.6% (117); South Africa 6.0% (48); Other 20.0% (161). (Other Source 7).
Sources to corroborate the impact
Factual Statements — each addresses impact on pupils' performance.
1) The Head of History, King's School, Chester
2) The Head of History, St Edward's School, Liverpool
3) The Head of History, Winstanley College, Lancashire.
1) Routledge — for royalties, sales figures. Statement available to
HEFCE's REF Team on request.
2) Manchester University Press — for royalties, sales figures. Statement
available to HEFCE's REF Team on request.
3) The Authors Copyright and Licensing Society — for royalties, including
from school photocopying — available to HEFCE's REF Team on request.
4) Professor Dr. Manfred Berg, University of Heidelberg (accessed 16
November 2013), Historisches Seminar der Universität Heidelberg —
Curt-Engelhorn-Professur für Amerikanische Geschichte. Available at:
[Accessed 16 November 2013].
5) Professor Donna Gilton (accessed 16 November 2013), Black
Studies 101 — Best Sources: Best books, periodicals, and other
information on Black or Africana Studies. Available at: http://libraryschool.libguidescms.com/culturalstudies
[Accessed 16 November 2013].
6) Routledge (2013), Barack Obama and the Myth of a Post-Racial
America. Available at: http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415813945/
[Accessed 16 November 2013].
7) Author's Dashboard at the Conversation which can be
accessed by secure password to verify readership and reach for
publications by Verney — available to HEFCE's REF Team on request.