Bradley Ayers

Bradley Ayers

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Bradley Earl Ayers was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on 7th March, 1935. Immediately following high school, at the age of eighteen, Ayers enlisted in the United States Army. He served as a paratrooper and was promoted through the ranks from private to captain.

In early 1963, Bradley Ayers was selected by the Department of Defense for a sensitive undercover assignment with the Central Intelligence Agency that involved trying to remove Fidel Castro from power in Cuba. According to Ayers he was briefed at the CIA by General Victor Krulak, a personal friend of President John F. Kennedy and a member of the Special Group (SGA).

Ayers was based at JM/WAVE where he worked with members of anti-Castro groups like Alpha 66 and took part in Operation Mongoose. Gaeton Fonzi claims that Ayers worked closely with Johnny Roselli in attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro. In his book, The War That Never Was (1976), Ayers claimed he trained small teams of commandoes "to infiltrate Cuba, reach human targets, and assassinate them. Anyone in a senior position in government was fair game, and it reached down to the provincial heads, police chiefs and so on. But the principal target, we knew, was Castro - there was no secret about that amongst our people."

Ayers also points out the Robert Kennedy visited CIA personnel at their base in the Everglades: "I'm confident in my gut, that Bobby Kennedy was aware of what we were doing down there. It wasn't a case of the Agency mounting these assassination operations without the knowledge of the Special Group... RFK had a hands-on kind of control of the operations." After the assassination of John F. Kennedy the CIA ordered Ayers to shut down the operation.

Bradley Ayers was one of the first career officers to voice opposition to the Vietnam War and to speak out publicly against the influence of private and special interests in American politics. He was honorably discharged from active duty in 1965 and was recommissoned in the United States Army Reserve.

After leaving the United States Army Bradley Ayers worked as licensed commercial pilot and flight instructor. Later he was employed as a real estate broker and as a private detective in Arizona, Florida and Minnesota. He also supplied information to investigative journalist, Jack Anderson.

In 1976 Bradley Ayers published The War That Never Was, an insider's account of CIA covert operations against Cuba. An expanded paperback version was published in 1980. In the 1980s Ayers worked as an undercover operative with the Drug Enforcement Administration's South Florida Task Force.

In a letter sent to John R. Tunheim in 1994, Bradley Ayers claimed that nine people based at JM/WAVE "have intimate operational knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the assassination" of John F. Kennedy. Ayers named Theodore Shackley, Grayston Lynch, Felix Rodriguez, Thomas Clines, Gordon Campbell, David Morales, Rip Robertson, Edward Roderick and Tony Sforza as the men who had this information.

Bradley Ayers was interviewed by Jeremy Gunn of the Assassination Records Review Board in May, 1995. According to Gunn: “Ayers claims to have found in the course of his private investigative work, a credible witness who can put David Morales inside the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on the night of June 5, 1968 (RFK’s assassination)."

In 2006 Bradley Ayers published The Zenith Secret: A CIA Insider Exposes the Secret War Against Cuba and the Plot that Killed the Kennedy Brothers.

Bradley E Ayers, aged 81, died on Friday, 10th February, 2017.

The suppressed story can now be told of how the Central Intelligence Agency organized a Cuban exile raid on Cuba's key oil refinery in 1963 but aborted, it after the assassination of President John Kennedy.

Insiders say the corporate oil giants, hoping eventually to recover their property in Cuba, brought quiet pressure to quash any raids upon refineries. Lyndon Johnson, who canceled the raid after succeeding Kennedy in the White House, was close to Texas oil interests.

We have learned the dramatic details from Bradley Ayers, a 36-yearold former Army captain, who was selected by the CIA to train Cuban exiles for infiltration and assault missions including the refinery raid in Matanzas Province.

We have checked out Ayers' story with our own sources, who confirm Ayers is correct about names, places and dates. From a group of pictures, he was also able to pick out immediately a CIA undercover operative whom we knew had been involved in the CIA raids against Cuba.

The rugged Ayers, a former Army Ranger instructor, trained the refinery raiders. The recruiting for the mission had already been completed before he was assigned to the project. CIA officials took him by motor launch through swampy Everglades canals and across the open sea to secluded Florida Keys to meet the recruits.

Ayers and the CIA men selected Palo Alto Key, Upper Key Largo and Card Sound on the edge of the Everglades as training sites. "Most of the Cubans," said Ayers, "were bank clerks, busboys, waiters, musicians, laborers, men who had fled to the U.S. Many had never fired a weapon. They were disorganized and undisciplined. I got the job.

Ayers ran off simulated raids near Card Sound against a local Southern Bell microwave facility, with a high security fence. Other nights, he shared black beans and rice, drank rum and smoked "pot" with his Cuban cadre.

The ragtag recruits gradually became a fighting team: For first hand experience, he secretly accompanied two infiltration groups on missions to Cuba.

"We went on a commercially rigged trawler, a cover vessel." he said. "We ran blackout under g quarter moon, towing A V-20 launch, a high-powered fiberglass boat."

"We exchanged light signals with the partisans ashore in Pinar del Rio and launched two rubber boats. The team made contact with the partisans, and we picked up a wounded man who'd been a prisoner of Castro. But the Cuban partisans were careless with the lights.

"After we got the wounded man into a rubber boat, we were discovered by a Soviet-type patrol craft with spotlight. We covered our withdrawal with machine guns from the V-20 boat. Although we took casualties, we finally got back to the trawler. Our boats were pretty well shot up.

"On the way home, we saw a Cuban fishing craft flying a distress flag and found it had a load of refugees. We took them on board."

A second sortie to cache supplies for agents already in Cuba was less eventful. Finally, in September, 1963, Ayers was instructed by the CIA to make detailed training plans for the refinery raid.

He was given specific orders not to land on Cuba himself during the raid. But he was too emotionally involved with the Cubans' cause to stay out and wrote himself into the plans. "We were all on a live-for-today, tomorrow we die philosophy," he explained.

But the CIA ordered Ayers to shut down the operation. "I was in a tort of trauma" said the swashbuckling instructor. "I made trips to Washington to plead the cause of the freedom fighters with the minor officials I knew. But I just got disappointed and angry."

Finally, in October, 1964, Ayers resigned from active duty with a long statement of principle to his CIA and Army superiors. "As a soldier I had been taught I, shouldn't question political or,diplomatic action," he wrote, "But as a free-thinking American citizen, I couldn't subordinate my duty. My country was no longer playing to win, and, my faith in the goals to which I dedicated my life was shaken."

Ayers now runs a charter plane service, sells real estate and is finishing the first draft of a book. It will be a true story of his life of intrigue and action.

I make reference to your letter of February 23d and my subsequent communications with your staff in preparation for our meeting which is scheduled for 10.00 CDT this morning. I appreciate the opportunity to visit with you concerning matters relating to the assassination of President Kennedy and your appointment as a member of the board that will oversee the release of documents pertaining thereto.

Over the past several months I have furnished your staff with details of my background and other materials which I trust have provided you with some perspective for the information I hope to personally convey. Assuming you have read or been briefed on the essence of this history, I will not dwell upon it here. However, I take this opportunity to convey copies of two documents which I recently received that relate directly to our discussion of this date. They are self-explanatory.

With the context of our meeting hopefully established, I wish to call your attention to the following specifics which I urge you and the Board to be alert for and to pursue within the framework of your mandate. These areas of interest and individual identifications are recommended as adf.rect result of my experience with the CIA/JMWAVE Miami station during the period immediately preceding and following the death of JFK and my synthesis of other information developed since that experience.

I believe the following living individuals have intimate operational knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the assassination and the possible role of the persons and/or operations listed in the paragraph which follows:

Theodore Shackley - Chief of Station, JMWAVE Robert Wall - Deputy Chief of Operations, JMWAVE

Grayson Lynch - Contract paramilitary trainer/agent, JMWAVE

Felix Rodriguez - Contract paramilitary agent (Cuban born), JMWAVE

Thomas Clines - CIA paramilitary case officer, JMWAVE

Above named persons with reference to:

Gordon Campbell (current status unknown) - Deputy Chief of Station, JMWAVE

David Morales (deceased) - Chief of Operations, JMWAVE

"Rip" Robertson (deceased) - Contract paramilitary agent JMWAVE

Edward Roderick (current status unknown) - U. S. Army Major, explosives expert/Corp of Engineers, attached to JMWAVE and later CIA employee upon retirement from Army

Tony Sforza (deceased) - Contract paramilitary agent, JMWAVE

Operation (code name) "Red Cross" - JMWAVE, Fall 1963

Further, I invite your attention to the forthcoming issue of Vanity Fair Magazine (October issue) which I am advised will contain an article by Tony Summers, a highly credible journalist/author (CONSPIRACY) that will offer certain revelations complimenting the recommendations made in this communication.

I know for a fact that Summers has been diligently pursuing lines of inquiry that may be relevant to the work of the Board and may be useful in unscrambling and evaluating the JFK related documents produced by the CIA and other government agencies.

I hope the information I've provided is helpful to the Board and I remain prepared to testify under oath to any aspect of my activities should that be desired.

It will be twenty-four years next month since I sat in your living room , identified a photograph of John Rosselli and answered the rest of your test questions about his personality, dress, drink and activities. You needed someone to verify Rosselli's contention that, despite his admitted mobster-Mafia connections, he had served honorably with the CIA in the secret war against Cuba following the Bay of Pigs and, in fact, was a key player in the Castro assassination plots. I responded to your detailed questioning to your satisfaction because I had been with JMWAVE, the CIA's Miami station in 1963 and 1964.

In so doing, as a former Army officer and CIA operative, I was torn by conflicting emotions. At that time no one who had been on the inside with the Agency had ever gone public. Nevertheless, my Catholic sense of integrity prevailed. I came to Washington and became your source because I trusted you and felt you were on your way to making revelations far more significant than the CIA-Mafia connection and the plans to kill Castro. Had there been conspiracies in the murders of the Kennedy's, I believed you would uncover the truth and expose the perpetrators.

I left the military and the CIA after the death of JFK because l felt in my guts that some of those I was serving with were involved in the murder of the President. What I have learned in the years since has reinforced that instinctive perception. I cannot understand why you did not continue with your discovery efforts.

It was very difficult for me to leave the life to which I had devoted a dozen years - the only life l really knew from age 18. And, although I have made a pretty lousy civilian, I do not regret making the moral decision I did. I still feel a sense of purpose and have a keen sense of the historical significance of my experience. Civilian life has and continues to be difficult, somewhat because of what I shared with you so many years ago.

Despite the obstacles and distractions, I have persevered in my effort to make known that information from my service with the CIA that I believed was relevant to the Kennedy assassination and that I felt the American people had a right to know. Naively, I wrote a book, THE WAR THAT NEVER WAS, which was published in 1976, expecting that my manuscript would make a contribution to the growing body of evidence pointing to a conspiracy in the President's death. I have recently learned that the managing editor at the publishing house was on the CIA payroll, intercepting and censoring books that might be damaging to the Agency.

I will be sixty years old in a few days. Physically, I am much the same as I was in 1971; 1501bs, trim and hard as nails, ready to run six miles at the drop of a hat, positive in attitude and direction. Still a professional soldier in mind, spirit and body, I await with enthusiasm my next "mission," whatever my God has in mind for me.

One of the tasks I am determined to complete is to place the information I possess into the hands of those who may use it in the pursuit of truth and justice. I still have faith in you. In the spirit of your mentor, you must press on. For that reason and no other, I am compelled to place the accompanying documents in your hands - for whatever purpose they may serve. Regardless of what you may think or others may say, I was motivated by the same honorable purpose when I became your source twenty-four years ago.

The purpose of this memo is to give you background on who Brad Ayers is and the story he tells. His story is accepted to differing degrees, depending on who one talks to, but the basics of his story check out, according to our research.

Ayers was an infantry officer in the U.S. Army during the early 1960's, specializing in paramilitary training. In early 1963, (records checks indicate it was in early April) Ayers was "loaned" by the Army to the CIA, which assigned him to the JMWAVE station. Ayers' job was to train Cuban exiles and prepare them for an invasion of Cuba. This much of his story is borne out by checks of his military and CIA files.

From here, the veracity of Ayers' claims are less easy to discern. He claims to have seen many figures at JMWAVE who were not there, according to the official record; these include Johnny Roselli and William Harvey (former Task Force W /SAS chief for CIA, who was removed from that position by Kennedy after Harvey overstepped his authority after the Missile Crisis). Ayers also claims to have gone on several raiding missions with his proteges, and to have come under fire from Castro's forces in the summer of 1963. This is significant because according to the official record, all government sanctioned action against Castro had ceased by that point.

Ayers says that many of his colleagues at the JMWAVE station built up a strong resentment of President Kennedy, and says that he believes several of them to have played roles in the assassination. Foremost among these, he says, was David Morales, the operations officer for CIA in Miami.

The HSCA interviewed Ayers, and performed searches for his records. In doing so, they discovered five sealed envelopes in his file, which HSCA staff was not allowed access to. The envelopes have ben the source of some speculation among those in the research community who believe Ayers' story.

On May 12, I interviewed Ayers at his home outside of St. Paul, Minnesota. At that point, the questions were based on information obtained from open sources only, as few of the staff had their clearances yet.

Ayers claims to have found in the course of his private investigative work, a credible witness who can put David Morales inside the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on the night of June 5, 1968 (RFK’s assassination). Ayers offered to put me (and the Board) in touch with this unnamed person, who he feels would be willing to work with the Board.

I interviewed former US Army captain and CIA employee Bradley Ayers on May 12, 1995, at Ayers' home in Woodbury, Minnesota. The interview lasted from 10.00 a.m. to 3.00 p.m. The following is a summary and report of the interview...

Q. Did Morales ever try and pass himself off as Cuban?

A. Not to Ayers' knowledge, but "he could easily pass for Cuban." Morales was allegedly a very good actor, and "could pull off lots of roles." Here the conversation drifted into a discussion of David Morales and his emotional makeup. Ayers charged that Morales was a "mean" man who "paraded around the station like a tyrant." Everyone was apparently afraid of him. Morales hung with what Ayers called the "circle" - Morales, Roselli, Tony Sforza, Manuel Artime and Rip Robertson. The four were drinking buddies and of like mind on politics. Ayers said they were vicious, too. "If anyone put together a sniper team to hit the President, Morales, Rip, Rosselli and Sforza would have done it." Ayers noted that Artime, Robertson, Rosselli and Sforza all died just as the HSCA began investigating. He suggests checking for Morales' whereabouts during the late seventies, especially on the times these men were killed.

Ayers, Bradley E., age 81, of Frederic, Wisconsin, passed away on Friday, February 10, 2017 at his cabin home on Somers Lake.

Born in St. Paul, Minnesota on March 7, 1935, he was the son of Earl and Josephine Ayers. He was raised in Stillwater, Minnesota and graduated from Stillwater High School in 1953, where he was a three sport letterman. During high school, Bradley worked for the Stillwater Gazette as a reporter. Following graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He served as an Airborne Ranger and was promoted through the ranks from private to captain. In early 1963, he was temporarily assigned to the CIA to train anti-Castro exiles in South Florida. He was honorably discharged from the Army in 1964. He graduated from Metro State University in 1976 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Individualized Studies.

Over the course of his lifetime, Bradley had a fascinating and varied career. During the 1980s, he worked as an undercover operative with the DEA’s South Florida Task Force. He also worked as a licensed commercial pilot and flight instructor, a private investigator, a real estate broker and journalist. He published two books: “The War that Never Was” and “Zenith Secret,” and wrote a number of articles on a variety of topics for local and national publications. Brad had a passion for Native American Culture, the environment, and family history. He loved adventure (made his 301st parachute jump at age 79) and always made a home for stray cats and dogs.

Bradley was preceded in death by his parents, his brother, David Ayers, and nephew, Doug Ayers.

He is survived by his brothers, Mike and Joe, sons Dan, Brad and Steven, and several grandchildren, great grandchildren and nieces and nephews.

Bradley’s life will be recognized on Thursday, February 23, 2017, at 12:30 PM (visitation 12-12:30 PM) at Ft. Snelling Memorial Chapel in St. Paul. Interment will follow at 1:30 PM at Ft. Snelling National Cemetery. Arrangements were entrusted to Swedberg-Taylor Funeral Home, Webster, WI. Online condolences can be made at


When American Hezekiah Clark arrived in the area of Lachute on the North River in the 1790s with his family and other pioneers, it was a wilderness. Settled by Americans who had been uncomfortable living with seigneurial law, and Scots moving up the North River from the St. Andrews East area, a village soon developed along the river near the rapids. But it wasn’t until the coming of the railway that the village became an important centre.In the last quarter of the 19th century, Lachute acquired two leading industries, Ayers Woolen Mill and Wilson Paper, which became the town’s engines for growth and prosperity throughout the 20th century. This mill was built by Thomas Henry Ayers and Felix Hamelin in 1879.

The older generation remembers the soft Ayers blankets, but Ayers were also famous for their felts which were used in the pulp and paper industry. The story is told that Olive Paquette who had married Thomas Ayers found out the closely-guarded secret of how to splice the felts, once known only to felt-makers in England. By the 1920s, the mill had the largest felt drying cylinder in the world. Later, this mill also produced tweeds, flannels, rope and other industrial fabrics.
Over the last century and a quarter, the Ayers family has played an important part in the economic and social development of Lachute through their mill and their role as benefactor to the community.

Covert History

In a letter to Jack Anderson (1st March, 1995) he wrote:

Now he is preparing to tell all in The Zenith Secret which is scheduled to come out in December of this year. For a peek at what the book will contain, here is what he told John R. Tunheim, of the Assassination Records Review Board in a letter of August 23, 1994:

I believe the following living individuals have intimate operational knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the assassination and the possible role of the persons and/or operations listed in the paragraph which follows:

Theodore Shackley - Chief of Station, JMWAVE Robert Wall - Deputy Chief of Operations, JMWAVE

Grayson Lynch - Contract paramilitary trainer/agent, JMWAVE

Felix Rodriguez - Contract paramilitary agent (Cuban born), JMWAVE

Thomas Clines - CIA paramilitary case officer, JMWAVE

Above named persons with reference to:

Gordon Campbell (current status unknown) - Deputy Chief of Station, JMWAVE

David Morales (deceased) - Chief of Operations, JMWAVE

"Rip" Robertson (deceased) - Contract paramilitary agent JMWAVE

Edward Roderick (current status unknown) - U. S. Army Major, explosives expert/Corp of Engineers, attached to JMWAVE and later CIA employee upon retirement from Army

Tony Sforza (deceased) - Contract paramilitary agent, JMWAVE
Operation (code name) "Red Cross" - JMWAVE, Fall 1963

Here is a blurb from The Zenith Secret:

The information in this post came from John Simkin's JFK Forum


I'm acquainted with Ted Shackley (sp?) and Tony Sforza. I'm going to look up these other names.

BTW, I really like your site.

Name: gary Location: Antarctica

Jennifer Lopez (2011)

Image: AP Photo/Peter Kramer.

TMZ reported in September 2011 that Cooper and Lopez went on a date after her split from her husband at the time, Marc Anthony, that year. The site reported at the time that the two went on a date the restaurant Per Se at Columbus Circle in New York City. The Mirror also reported in 2011 that the two were photographed in Cooper’s car in Los Angeles. It’s unclear how long Cooper and Lopez dated, but it seemed like the romance was nothing more than a fling.

Bradley Ayers

Bradley Earl Ayers (March 7, 1935 – February 10, 2017) was an American soldier, CIA operative, writer and political activist. He was known for saying that the CIA played a role in the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Ώ] Ayers was one of the first career officers to voice opposition to the Vietnam War and to speak out publicly against it. He was born in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Ayers died in Somers Lake, Wisconsin on February 10, 2017, aged 81. ΐ]

The Long Reach of Civil War History on Contemporary Issues

University of Richmond President Ed Ayers says the enemy of
Civil War history is everything people think they know about the conflict. But as the country continues to mark the
war's 150th anniversary the historian says that has to change, not
just so that we know our history but so we can talk about important
contemporary issues such as race, gender and even who we are as Americans.

"The Civil War is our greatest point of leverage to talk
about these issues," Ayers said.
"I became a historian of 19th Century America not to run
away from contemporary issues."

Ayers presented the annual lecture of Duke's Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity
and Gender in the Social Sciences Friday afternoon in the Gothic Reading
Room. As president of a major university
in the old capital of the former Confederacy, Ayers has been in a key position to
help shape the themes of the anniversary of the Civil War, which began in 1861. He is author of numerous books on the Civil War, including "In The Presence of Mine Enemies: War in the Heart of America, 1859-1863," which won the Bancroft Prize for history.

And his involvement with a highly praised digital history collection underscores how
humanities scholars can use technology to mine old data in new ways and make
them accessible to the public.

Two of the outstanding questions that Ayers said the data are
providing new evidence for are the origins of the conflict and how a fight over
the union was transformed into a larger conflict for freedom and emancipation.

Using electoral data
and digitized records of secession debates, Ayers challenged common ideas
about the 1860 presidential election and its aftermath. Nobody was voting for war in 1860, he said,
and schisms were found throughout both the North and South.

"Nobody knew what it was they were voting for,"
Ayers said. "Lincoln and the
Republicans disavowed that they were going after slavery, but throughout the
South newspapers insisted they were intent on destroying slavery. The two sides talked through each other. Every political party had its own newspaper
and its own interpretation."

Key to the South was a segment of voters who supported the
Constitutional Whig party in the election.
These were people -- very strong in North Carolina -- who opposed secession but supported slavery, Ayers said.
When radicals in South Carolina voted for secession immediately after
the election, one reason was to try to make this compromise position untenable.

"There's still this idea that the secession wasn't
about preserving slavery," Ayers said.
"It's not true. They spoke
the language of state's rights, but it shouldn't be surprising that the talk of
rights and slavery were tied closely together."

The records of the important Virginia secession debates -- held many months after South Carolina's vote -- underscore the centrality of
slavery in the debate. The topic was
raised more than 1,400 times in speeches, literally once every other page.

Ayers noted that the Virginia debates, as well as similar
ones that followed in North Carolina, lacked the fire of those in South
Carolina and the deep South. "They
knew where the war would actually be fought," he said. "Virginia and North Carolina lost more
men in the war than any other state.
They went into this crying, and they lost the most."

But what war would it be?
Ayers said it was important that the Civil War anniversary not
overshadow a second just as significant anniversary -- the emancipation of 3.5
million African-Americans, an event that occurred under circumstances unique in
world history.

Had the war ended in 1862 -- had Union Gen. George McClellan
succeeded as he should have in taking Richmond -- the war would have concluded
without emancipation, Ayers said. But a
combination of political, military and social factors as well as the bravery of
the slaves themselves, led to a conclusion that nobody at the start of the war

The Richmond digital history includes another timeline showing the
movement of Union soldiers and accompanying efforts of slaves to race to Union
lines to win their freedom. This starts
in May 1861, even before the first infantry battle, when a handful of slaves
flee to Union soldiers in Hampton Roads, Va., and without explicit orders from
his superiors, Gen. Benjamin Butler accepts them.

"What the map shows is the determination of the slaves
to find freedom," he said.
"It's easy to romanticize this, and in fact in many of the cases it
wasn't a good outcome. But it shows the
incredible bravery of the slaves and how they helped transformed the nature of
the war."

Lincoln also came to believe that to defeat the Confederacy,
slavery had to be crushed. Ayers noted
that while much Civil War scholarship on emancipation focuses on the
personality and character of Lincoln, he believes more attention should be
placed on the military and political contexts that forced his actions. It was
through the system of slavery that the South was able to draw upon nearly all
adult white males and feed a vast army.

Ayers said his hope is for the Civil War anniversary to be
marked not by a celebration but with a feeling of empathy to understand
uncomfortable truths and to challenge long-standing myths surrounding the

"Traditional Civil War history has smoothed out the
sharp edges," he said. "We
need to grapple with sharp edges, to talk honestly about issues of race and
feminism and social conflict 150 years ago. If we can do that, there's hope we can talk
honestly about these same issues now."

Ayers was introduced by Duke faculty members Kerry Haynie
and Paula McClain, co-directors of REGSS, an interdisciplinary center housed
within the Social Science Research Institute.

AYERS Genealogy

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Dr Olly Ayers joins the History Faculty at New College of the Humanities

London, UK (PRWEB UK) 4 July 2014

Dr Ayers will teach one-to-one and group tutorials, as well as delivering lectures and leading seminars in small groups on two modules: ‘Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement’, and ‘Twentieth-Century World History’.

He will work closely with other members of the department including Convenor for History, Dr Suzannah Lipscomb Dr Hannah Dawson Dr Lars Kjaer Dr Edmund Neill and Dr Joanne Paul.

Dr Ayers gained a First Class Honours degree in History from the University of Manchester in 2008 and completed his PhD at the University of Kent in 2013. He has held a lectureship in American History at the University of Kent and an Early Career Visiting Scholarship at Northumbria University.

Dr Ayers is a member of Historians of Twentieth Century USA (HOTCUS) and the British Association for American Studies (BAAS). His research interests span the connected histories of black civil rights, economic inequality and urban spaces. He has published on the history of black protest in New York City and is writing a monograph on African American activism during the New Deal.

Dr Ayers’ doctoral work challenged the positive verdict assigned to the northern, New Deal era of civil rights struggle by historians of the ‘long’ civil rights movement. Drawing upon the archives of black protest groups, oral histories, and the records of unions and branches of government, Dr Ayers’ work argued that a new and ultimately burdensome demand for coordinated activism was placed on civil rights groups. Rather than undergoing a neat ‘proletarian turn’ to the left during the 1930s as existing accounts emphasize, protest leaders often remained divided by personality and politics as they attempted to respond to the challenges of the Depression and war years. His future research will focus on Detroit, examining how narratives of progress and decline have shaped the city’s socio-economic, political and cultural history during the twentieth century.

Dr Suzannah Lipscomb, Convenor for History and Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History commented: ‘We are tremendously excited that Dr Ayers is joining the History Faculty at NCH. His incisive intelligence, professionalism, enthusiasm for scholarship, and kindness of spirit mean that he will enrich the Faculty and student experience immeasurably.’

A C Grayling, Master of New College of the Humanities, said: “I am delighted to have Olly Ayers joining us at NCH. He will bring yet more strength and depth to our History provision, and will be a valuable addition to our academic community, which prizes both scholarship and the interdisciplinary across the range of Humanities studies.”

In addition to their 12-module single honours undergraduate degree from the University of London, all NCH students study a further eight modules. These comprise modules from another of the College’s degree subjects or Art History, Classical Studies, or Psychology as a contextual course, and core modules in Applied Ethics, Logic & Critical Thinking, and Science Literacy, plus the College’s three-year Professional Programme.

The College’s rolling applications process is independent of UCAS and applications can be made in addition to the five UCAS choices and can still be made for entry in 2014.

Visit for all enquiries and applications.

For further information, please contact:
Desi Lyon
T: +44 (0)2072911385
E: desi(dot)lyon(at)NCHum(dot)org

About New College of the Humanities

New College of the Humanities (NCH) offers a new model of higher education for the humanities in the UK. NCH students enjoy one of the best staff-to-student ratios in UK higher education and benefit from a high number of quality contact hours including engaging and challenging one-to-one tutorials.

Our professors are international experts in their fields and our full- time academic staff members have been selected for their proven ability in teaching as well as for their research interests.

NCH welcomed its first intake of students in September 2012 and prepares students for undergraduate degrees in: Economics BSc English BA History BA Law LLB, Philosophy BA and Politics & International Relations BSc.

In addition to their 12-module single honours undergraduate degree from the University of London, all NCH students study a further eight modules. These comprise four modules from another degree subject or Art History, Classical Studies, or Psychology as a contextual course, and three core modules in Applied Ethics, Logic & Critical Thinking, and Science Literacy, plus the College’s three-year Professional Programme.

The College is centrally located in Bloomsbury, London’s university district and students, as associate members of the University of London, have access to many of the resources of the University of London: the exceptional library in Senate House, the University of London Union, sports facilities, and many other opportunities to enrich themselves through extra-curricular activity.

The College’s rolling applications process is independent of UCAS and applications can be made in addition to the five UCAS choices. Visit or call 020 7637 4550 for all enquiries and applications.

In March 2014 NCH commissioned YouthSight, an independent youth research agency, to conduct research into the academic experiences of NCH students. The survey was based on annual research YouthSight conduct for HEPI with c14000 students at public universities in the UK. Using the NCH results and data collected on behalf of HEPI, YouthSight were able to directly compare the academic experience of NCH students with students studying Humanities/Social Sciences at Russell Group universities in 2014. HEPI were informed that this research took place.

The statistics show (percentage in brackets reflects HEPI results for those studying humanities and social sciences at Russell Group universities):

63 per cent of students at New College of the Humanities say that their university experience has exceeded their expectations. (2014: 28 per cent/ 2013: 32%)

New College of the Humanities students experience an average of 13.8 hours of contact time per week. (2014: 9.85/ 2013: 9.93)

Students at New College of the Humanities complete 13.7 assignments per term (6.44)
84 per cent of feedback at New College of the Humanities is given in person (2014: 36 per cent/ 2013: 40%)
91 per cent of students at New College of the Humanities claim it is easy to schedule time to discuss work, or discuss work on email, outside of scheduled work hours (2014: 69 per cent/ 2013: 76%)
88 per cent of students at New College of the Humanities state they have sufficient access to academic staff outside timetabled sessions in order to discuss aspects of their work (2014: 71 per cent/ 2013: 73%)
88 per cent of students at New College of the Humanities are satisfied with the amount of timetables sessions (2014: 61%/ 2013: 62%)

All History Is Local

I became, back in graduate school, a devotee of what was then called “the new social history” — the history of everyday people. The field, which was just emerging in the 1970s, democratized history and opened up new possibilities for learning about the past. I loved it.

I probably also saw social history as a way to write about my own family more broadly. My mother’s and father’s families had both lived in the high mountains of North Carolina until they moved an hour away to Kingsport, a small but prosperous industrial city in East Tennessee.

Though I grew up in what I now recognize as a historic place — near the route of Virginians’ migration to the Cumberland Gap and then up to Kentucky, the great Warrior’s Path that connected the Native peoples of the east, the place Daniel Boone “kilt a bar,” and the birthplace of country music — I was numb to it all. I lived in a subdivision that seemed to have effaced all history. It was called Colonial Heights, though Tennessee had never been a colony and the area seemed no higher than anywhere else around.

I was intrigued with our ancestral home in North Carolina, where my grandmother lived all but two years of her life, in a house built in the 1860s. My grandparents didn’t have a phone until I was 16, heated their house with a coal stove, and barely got one channel on their TV.

I could see, staying with them for weeks at a time, that history had happened to our family somewhere along the line. In a single generation, my parents went from living on a mountain farm to working in a modern factory, from butchering their own hogs to shopping at a supermarket, from navigating a dirt road to an interstate highway. But the march of presidents in our textbooks reflected none of that.

I set out to write the history of people who were called, in an unfortunate phrase from the early days of social history, “the inarticulate.” I began with the most obscured people I could think of: black and white southerners caught up in the prisons, chain gangs, hangings, shootings, and lynchings of the 19th century. I wove together local histories of three Georgia counties — one urban, one Black Belt, and one mountain — to capture a fuller range of experience. I see now that I was trying to do then what I’m still trying to do today: connect history across different scales.

Such a goal doesn’t make sense to a lot of people, I have to admit. In the midst of research for my dissertation in Georgia, I was told by one of the archivists that he and his colleagues wondered on their coffee break why I didn’t study someone who was worth studying. That question was its own answer: I wanted to show that everyone mattered.

After I finished that book, I set out on a new one that would span the South in the 50 years after Reconstruction — the so-called New South. In that project, which involved driving 12,000 miles to archives from Virginia to Texas, I tried to create the intimate feel of local history by using lots of diaries, letters, and such without actually writing the local history of any place.

Finishing that project up around 1991, I felt pulled to do local history that was actually local. Why? Because I had learned over the preceding decade that history literally takes place. Doing the work of social history had underlined the basic truth that all history happens to someone somewhere. If a historian is going to connect censuses, tax records, land plats, family Bibles, probate lists, and the like to find hidden patterns and trends — common strategies of social historians — that work by necessity has to be limited to defined localities.

But the “community studies” produced by the first social historians were falling out of fashion. Each had to confront the claim that they were not typical of whatever they were trying to explain. They also required vast amounts of research, and all that research did not guarantee an interesting outcome. By the 1980s, sweeping cultural histories were replacing community studies, bypassing local records altogether. Their preferred sources were print, film, advertisements, television, and the like — all meaningful, but disconnected from any particular place. The methods that social historians had developed — methods of record linkage and quantification — also quickly fell away. Most people who choose to be historians are not particularly enamored of math, so tables and graphs disappeared without regret.

I was quite interested in cultural history, but couldn’t abandon the idea that history is best explained in the lives of people confronting challenges in real time and real place. So I decided that I would try to explain two communities, doubling the complexity and challenge.

I chose two counties in the Great Valley — Augusta County, Virginia, and Franklin County, Pennsylvania — and sought to document all the people who lived in either, through the era of the Civil War and emancipation. The two counties are about 200 miles apart, separated by the Mason-Dixon Line. Their soils, climates, crops, ethnicities, and religions were the same, and yet they fell into a devastating war against one another. I wanted to portray that history through the depth and humanity of two interwoven local studies.

And so I helped lead a team to build a vast archive from a slice of time and space. Through a series of accidents and good luck, we were able to put all that material online in the earliest years of the Web, where millions of people have used it and where it still lives.

The Valley of the Shadow project was my way of trying to show that people’s lives were shaped by the place they were born. I was also interested in exploring the possibilities of merging the new field of digital history with the old field of local history. The book that emerged from this process converted all the detail into two interwoven stories, themselves interwoven into the national story.

The Valley project sent me out on a digital journey I wasn’t expecting, followed by two more journeys — into the deanship at the University of Virginia and the presidency at the University of Richmond. In the course of the latter, I became very involved in local efforts to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War and emancipation, leading a collaborative project called the Future of Richmond’s Past that set out to represent all sides of the story. It culminated in April, 2015 on the anniversary of Richmond’s liberation. We staged a wonderful celebration on the Capitol grounds, complete with reenactors of the United States Colored Troops marching up the same street Black soldiers had walked in 1865. Not a Confederate flag in sight.

In the summer of 2017, my hometown of Charlottesville became an example of how local history, national history, and international history can suddenly intersect. All at once, “Charlottesville” became a moment in history as well as a place where people live. Today, that moment overwhelms, in the digital world of searches, everything else my city is.

Over the course of all this research and writing and public history, I’ve come to the inconvenient conclusion that we need to see history with bifocals — up close and as part of a pattern.

Just as all history is local, so is all history regional, national, and international. Every county is unique, but every county is part of a pattern. It’s the interplay between those two truths that make the most use of local research, archives, and passion. And it’s the interplay among those patterns that we can now see in new and exciting ways.

Local history, in some ways, has never been easier. Thanks to the spread of digital sources and searching, people and patterns can be identified much faster than through the slow and painstaking harvesting of the historical record necessary only a decade ago.

Today, we face almost an opposite challenge. How do we make meaning out of the vast amounts of information at our fingertips? How do we visualize and understand mountains of data without losing sight of the local?

The goal now has to be locating the local within larger networks, showing both that the local matters and that it is a part of patterns bigger than itself.

Much of my work in this realm the past 15 years has centered on collaborations with the Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond. In creating a digital atlas of American history, we used GIS to marry large amounts of data to spatial thinking and historical reasoning. A map of the Forced Migration of enslaved Africans, for example, follows the involuntary movement of thousands of enslaved people across state and county lines between 1810 and 1860 into regions where the sugar and cotton industries fed the demand for more labor. The map embeds links to narratives written by former slaves, reminding us that there are stories of real people behind each of the data points.

Another map, of the Foreign-Born Population of the United States, shows the birth origins of the people in every county in every census year since 1850. It sends out arrows to the countries from which people came, revealing how each locality was embedded in global patterns of migration.

The profusion of digital resources can create the illusion of understanding the past. By breaking a complex historical record into pieces, into lines from a census or highlighted names in a newspaper article, such tools necessarily fragment the historical record. By their very nature, these tools — genealogical rather than historical, by their purpose and nature — take people out of context. They portray history as lines leading from the past to ourselves, rather than as a web of associations surrounding each individual. A DNA readout tells you nothing of the actual lives of your ancestors.

Local history, then, serves us best when it is woven into the larger patterns of history. New American History offers ways to weave those patterns, though the most essential tools are, as they have always been, empathy and imagination.


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