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Public History


A Great Course & Audible original exploring the history of Brooklyn. Narrated and written by Brian Purnell. Over the course of 11 lectures, Purnell takes listeners through the dynamic story of New York City's most populous region.


On January 20, 2022 Dr. Purnell delivered one of two in-person remarks that he will give this year, as the Roxbury Latin’s 2021-2022 Smith Visiting Scholar.  The Robert P. Smith International Fellowship was created fifteen years ago, to bring visiting scholars to Roxbury Latin School's campus to enhance students' curricular experience. 

Brooklyn Resists.jpeg

Purnell served as the lead historian and curator for the Center for Brooklyn History's exhibit on Black Brooklynites response to racial injustice. Still fully accessible online, the exhibit was on display at the Center for Brooklyn History from Juneteenth 2021 through September 2021.  


A compiled guide of Arnie Goldwag's Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) Collection. Goldwag was a prominent Brooklynite in the mid-twentieth century, instrumental in advancing and coordinating community involvement with the local CORE chapter. Purnell worked with archivisits to secure the donation of this archival collection.


Purnell created and donated 34 recorded interviews with former members of the Brooklyn Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). Stored at the Center for Brooklyn History, the collection includes notes, news-clippings, and other primary sources.


From 2004-2010, Purnell served as a Co-Director of Research for this public history research project.


A compiled guide to 13 recorded interviews with former members of the Brooklyn Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). The project showcases an interactive story map highlighting places of historical significance in Brooklyn. Purnell recorded these interviews when researching and writing his PhD dissertation and first book, Fighting Jim Crow in the County of Kings.

  • Co-organizer: 1619 Project Event Series, Bowdoin College, September-November, 2020

  • Panelist: “The Lift Every Voice National Forum,” University of South Carolina, May 14-18, 2013

  • Historian Advisor: “The Pathways to Freedom Digital Narrative Project: Mapping Brooklyn Civil Rights Stories in Time and Space,” Long Island University, Principal Investigator: Dr. Deborah Mutnick, Professor of English; funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities (since August 2011)

  • Historian Advisor: “Fighting For Justice: New York Voices of the Civil Rights Movement,” New York City Commission on Human Rights and NYC-TV’s on-line museum project highlighting New York City’s prominent role in the civil rights movement, 2009-2010

  • Workshop Facilitator: “Brooklyn CORE ‘slice,’ ” New York City Outward Bound/NYC Region Expeditionary Learning Schools, November 14, 2009

  • Co-organizer (with Oneka LaBennett): Lecture Series: “The Bronx is Building,” Fordham University (2008-2009) – funded by a major grant ($18,000) from the New York Council for the Humanities

  • Co-curator: (with Kate Fermoile): Brooklyn Historical Society’s exhibit on the history of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation and the national effort to create Community Development Corporations. (2008)

  • Member: Brooklyn Historical Society, Scholars’ Advisory Council (2008-2015)

  • Faculty Director and Program Designer: History Makers Program (Summer 2006) designed and administered a six-week program in public history methods for Bronx high school students funded through a grant from the Teagle Foundation.

  • Writer/Researcher: Malcolm X Project, Columbia University (2003-2004).

  • Program Facilitator: Documentary film series on African American History, The Brooklyn Public Library, (spring 2003)

  • Advisor and Researcher: Brooklyn Historical Society’s museum exhibit, “Brooklyn Works,” (2000-2001).

  • Researcher: Caribbean Research Center, Medgar Evers College (Brooklyn, NY), Study on Afro-Caribbean/Jewish Relations in Brooklyn (2000-2001).

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