Melvin Patrick Ely is the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Humanities in the department of history. He writes and teaches about the history of African Americans and of the South. His book, Israel on the Appomattox: A Southern Experiment in Black Freedom from the 1790s Through the Civil War, tells the story of free African Americans in one Virginia county and their relations with whites and enslaved blacks.
Professor Ely has also written The Adventures of Amos 'n' Andy: A Social History of an American Phenomenon that probes the racial ideas and behavior of black and white Americans as reflected in the popular radio and television series and in the ways people of both races responded to it.
In 2006, the governor of Virginia presented the Commonwealth's Outstanding Faculty Award to Ely. During his years on the faculty at Yale University, Ely received both the Prize for Outstanding Scholarly Publication and Research and the Prize for Teaching Excellence. He served as Fulbright Professor of American Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1998-1999. He is chair of the board of directors of the University of Virginia Press. Ely received his doctoral degree from Princeton University in 1985, and a master's degree in linguistics from the University of Texas at Austin in 1978.