Alexander Byrd was appointed Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in July 2020. In that role, Byrd provides high-level strategic leadership for diversity initiatives and coordinates offices across the campus to help create one point of responsibility for all programs and efforts around diversity.
Byrd also is an associate professor of history. His area of expertise is Afro America, especially black life in the Atlantic world and the Jim Crow South. His study of free and forced transatlantic black migration in the period of the American Revolution is entitled Captives & Voyagers. The work follows the two largest streams of free and forced transoceanic black migration across the eighteenth-century British Atlantic world: enslaved black migration to Jamaica and free black migration to Sierra Leone. The book is propelled by the premise that it is possible to gain new purchase on the history of eighteenth-century transatlantic migration by examining free and forced migration together, and by paying careful attention to the social consequences of the actual processes of emigration. Captives and Voyagers was awarded the 2009 Wesley-Logan Prize in African diaspora history (jointly sponsored by the American Historical Association and the Association for the Study of African American Life & History).
Byrd has published essays addressing current debates over the nativity of Olaudah Equiano, and treating the social consequences of violence in the transatlantic slave trade. His essay “Eboe, Country, Nation, and Gustavus Vasa’s Interesting Narrative” was named the 2010 winner of Douglass Adair Memorial Awardfor best article published in the William and Mary Quarterly during the preceding six years. Byrd's other published work addresses teaching the history of lynching, and explores practicalities of civic engagement in African American studies research. His oral history of Magdalene Dulin is in Remembering Jim Crow: African Americans Tell About Life in the Segregated South. Byrd’s current projects include an edited volume exploring the consequence of race and place in Houston in the twentieth and twenty first centuries, and a study of race and equity in the public schools of Houston since Brown v. Board. Byrd regularly offers lecture and discussion courses on The Origins of Afro-America; Black America: From Nadir though the Great Depression; Contemporary African American History; and Race, Education, and Society in the Urban South. In the Fall of 2020 he began offering the foundation course for the minor in African and African American Studies, "Knowing Blackness.” Byrd is a four-time recipient of the George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching (2006, 2013, 2015, and 2018) and in 2010 he was the recipient of the Presidential Mentoring Award. In 2020, the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation recognized Byrd as one of the year’s 10 Piper Professors. Byrd served as the magister of Wiess College from 2011–2016.
Professor Byrd has held fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Social Science Research Council, the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton University, and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. He is a member of the American Historical Association, and a life member of the Southern Historical Association. From 2016 through 2019 Byrd served on the council of Omohundro Institute.