Elijah Muhammad's Great Grandson heads Schomburg
know the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Clara Muhammad are smiling to
know their great grandson Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad will head the
world's greatest collection of black history that is housed at the
Schomburg Library in Harlem. We think Malcolm and Betty Shabazz are
smiling as well.
Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad to head the Schomburg Center
By Herb Boyd
Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, a scholar of African-American history from
Special to the Amsterdam News
Indiana University, has been named the new director of the Schomburg
Center for Research in Black Culture.
There were more than 200
nominees or scholars seeking the position since the announcement that
Dr. Howard Dodson, Jr. would retire from the position next year. Dr.
Muhammad, who is the son of the noted New York Times photographer Ozier
Muhammad and the great-grandson of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad,
assumes the position next July. “I am
extremely excited to be selected to fill this prestigious position,”
Dr. Muhammad said in an interview Wednesday afternoon at the Abyssinian
Baptist Church. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I hope I
can fulfill the legacy left by Dr. Dodson.”
Over the last
several months the Schomburg Center has been mired in rumors that the
center was imperiled and ever more so upon the notice that Dr. Dodson
would no longer be at the helm. Furthermore, there was an outcry from
the community with the demand that Dr. Molefi Asante of Temple
University be appointed the new director.
“Yes, I am well aware
of all the controversy and the first thing I want to do is to secure
the trust of the community and the staff here at this historic
institution,” Dr. Muhammad said. “This position affords me a national
platform to contribute to conversations and even policy debates on
issues pertaining to the arts and culture.”
A native of Chicago,
Dr. Muhammad served as assistant professor of history at Indiana
University for five years, where he completed a major scholarly work The
Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban
America (Harvard University Press, 2010).
According to Dr.
David Levering Lewis, who nominated Dr. Muhammad for the position, the
new director’s book “renders an incalculable service to civil rights
scholarship by disrupting one of the nation’s most insidious,
convenient, and resilient explanatory loops: whites commit crimes, but
black males are criminals.”
“I am currently working a book that
will deal with the history of racial politics surrounding the creation
and swift dissolution of Prohibition-era ‘tough-on-crime’ laws,
specifically New York’s four-strikes law of 1926,” he said. When
asked about some of his immediate plans, Dr. Muhammad said he would
devote time and attention to some of the programs already underway at
the Schomburg and initiated by Dr. Dodson. “I certainly will continue
his thrust into digital technologies, particularly as we reach out to
the younger members of our community.”
At 38, Dr. Muhammad, who
grew up on the Southside of Chicago, is vitally in touch with the mood,
attitude and aspirations of many in the Black and Latino community. A
1993 graduate of University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in economics,
he received his Ph.D. in American history from Rutgers University in
2004, specializing in 20th century U.S. and African American history.
know that his career at the Schomburg Center will be one of excellence
and innovation,” said Dr. Paul LeClerc, president of the NYPL.
Muhammad, who is married with three children, said that he will be
convening a town hall meeting to get to know the community and for the
community to get to know him.
“There has never been a more
exciting time in the history of the Schomburg Center,” said search
committee member Aysha Schomburg, great-granddaughter of Arturo
Schomburg, the center’s founder. “Without any doubt, Khalil has the
skills and the passion to build on the legacy. This is a great day
for New York and especially for Harlem. We welcome him.”