John McKerley

Adjunct Assistant Professor of History
Adjunct Lecturer in Human Rights

John McKerley is a union representative for the Iowa State Education Association serving teachers and other school workers in southeastern Iowa. Before taking his current position, he served for a decade as oral historian with the Iowa Labor History Oral Project, an almost fifty-year-old oral history collaboration to document Iowa's labor and working-class history. His awards include two Archie Green fellowships from the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, with one focused on documenting the experiences of recent immigrant and refugee meatpacking workers in Iowa and Illinois.

His research and teaching center on labor, civil, and human rights, as well as documentary methods, especially oral history and photography. 

John received his PhD in history from the University of Iowa in 2008.

His publications include a co-edited volume of oral histories from the collections at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Foot Soldiers for Democracy: The Men, Women, and Children of the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement (University of Illinois, 2009); a co-edited volume of essays, Civic Labors: Scholar Activism and Working-Class Studies (Illinois, 2016); and an edited interview with photographer David Bacon, "Social Justice Writing and Photography: The Reality Check and Beyond," in The Routledge Handbook of the Anthropology of Labor (2022).

Courses taught

  • Topics in Human Rights: Epidemic Disease and the Future of Work
  • Human Rights Lab: Documenting Violations