Bridget Kelly

Graduate Student in History

Bridget Laramie Kelly is a fourth-year PhD Candidate in International Urban History. Her dissertation The Harlem Uprising of 1943: Black Self-Determination and the Formation of Probationary Citizenship develops a new framework for understanding what previous historians have considered a “riot,” and instead interprets the event as a pivotal wartime demonstration in America’s largest Black city: a political uprising for “Black self-determination” at the height of World War II. 623 people were arrested on August 1-2, 1943, in one of New York’s largest mass arrests in state history. Her work pays special attention to the centrality of women as actors and their central role in the violence. At the same time, she foregrounds the governmental reaction to Harlem’s uprising and the creation of a new juridical and political category of degraded sub-citizenship, which Kelly calls “probationary citizenship,” based on a pre-trial probationary status for arrested “rioters” who, under the guise of judicial “leniency” and after extensive investigation into their intimate and psychological lives, were “offered” and “accepted” prolonged surveillance and/or conscription into US military service instead of extended prison sentences.

Kelly analyzes these mutually constitutive dynamics together and in relation: the self-determining politics of violent popular rebellion during WWII and the experimental creation of a new kind of U.S. warfare state conditionally based on limited political membership and state surveillance for the Black worker-soldier. Her work has been funded by Washington University, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, University of Virginia, and George Mason University. In 2022, her article “They Cleaned Me Out Entirely: An Enslaved Woman’s Experience with General Sherman’s Army” won the Urban History Association’s Graduate Student prize. She has presented her preliminary findings at the Urban History Journal’s 50th Anniversary conference at the University of Leicester and the upcoming 2024 American History Association’s gathering in San Francisco.

Before accepting a graduate position as a Chancellor’s Fellow at Washington University-St. Louis, Bridget Laramie Kelly taught social studies for seven years. Her broader intellectual interests include urbanization, American Indian studies, and race and gender in the city.

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  • Washington University
  • One Brookings Drive
  • MSC: 1062-107-114
  • St. Louis, MO 63130
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