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Steve Hinnefeld
University Communications

Last modified: Friday, November 19, 2010

IU historian named director of Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Nov. 19, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Khalil Gibran Muhammad, a faculty member in the Department of History at Indiana University Bloomington, has been selected as the next director of the acclaimed Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York, N.Y.

Khalil Muhammad

Khalil Muhammad

The appointment, announced this week and effective in July 2011, was made by New York Public Library President Paul LeClerc after the unanimous recommendation of a nine-member search committee. Muhammad will succeed Howard Dodson Jr., who is retiring after more than 25 years of leadership.

"I treasure this opportunity to wed my passion for African-American history with my commitment to scholarship," Muhammad said. "I am committed to promoting the voice of black people as they have engaged in the most significant issues of our times. What matters to me is that they and people of the African Diaspora are able to articulate why their humanity matters, to show and showcase their contributions to the world, and to have in a sense a history that is validated and respected and made meaningful to humanity at large."

A native of Chicago's South Side, Muhammad has served as assistant professor of history at IU Bloomington for five years, where he completed a major interpretive book in African-American studies, The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America, published recently by Harvard University Press. He is now working on a book-length history of the racial politics surrounding the creation and swift dissolution of Prohibition-era "tough-on-crime" laws. He is an associate editor of the Journal of American History, which is published at IU Bloomington.

"I am fully committed to mentoring my current graduate students and seeing them through to completion," Muhammad said. "I will work closely with the Journal of American History staff to ensure a smooth transition. And I plan to collaborate with IU's new Ph.D. program in African American and African Diaspora Studies to draw graduate students to the Schomburg's rich resources.

"I also expect to collaborate with Portia Maultsby of the African American Music Archive and Michael Martin of the Black Film Center and Archive at Indiana University. Their leadership and commitment to the promotion of scholarship has and will continue to inspire me."

Peter Guardino, chairman of the Department of History in the College of Arts and Sciences, said the appointment is a remarkable honor that reflects well on Indiana University.

"It's a chance for him to be in a highly public and highly visible position and to help shape research on race in the U.S. -- and frankly, public consciousness of race in the U.S.," Guardino said. "Khalil is a great person and a great scholar. We're very proud of him and very happy for him."

"The entire committee enthusiastically supports and is delighted with the choice of Khalil Muhammad," Schomburg Center search committee co-chairmen and library trustees Gordon J. Davis and Henry Louis Gates Jr. said in a joint statement. "We are confident that the extensive search process, involving many strong candidates out of a pool of more than 200, has brought to the Schomburg a leader of unique vision and inspiration who will bridge the many communities and generations served by the center."

A great-grandson of Elijah Muhammad, founder of the Nation of Islam, Muhammad has deep roots in black history and in Harlem. His father is the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times photographer Ozier Muhammad.

He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in economics and received his Ph.D. in American history from Rutgers University, specializing in 20th-century U.S. and African-American history. He spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow at the Vera Institute of Justice before joining the faculty of Indiana University. He is married and has three children.

About the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

A cultural center as well as a repository, this Harlem-based modern research library also sponsors a wide array of interpretive programs, including exhibitions, scholarly and public forums, and cultural performances. For over 80 years the Schomburg Center has collected, preserved, and provided access to materials documenting the global black experience and promoted the study and interpretation of black history and culture. For more information, see