Introducing the New Director of the Schomburg Center, Kevin Young

By NYPL Staff
August 1, 2016
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Kevin Young
Kevin Young

Photo: Melanie Dunea/CPi

I am happy to report that Kevin Young will be joining NYPL as Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. He will begin his tenure at the Library in the late fall. Kevin succeeds Khalil Gibran Muhammad, who led the Schomburg with great distinction for the last five years.
Kevin joins NYPL from Emory University, where he was both Curator of the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library and Curator of Literary Collections at the newly named Rose Library. He simultaneously held the Charles Howard Candler Professorship of Creative Writing and English. Under Kevin's leadership, the Danowski Poetry Library and the Rose Library have both enjoyed remarkable success, increasing their holdings, expanding public programming and access, mounting innovative exhibitions, organizing conferences and fellowship competitions, and enhancing their digital presence. Among his notable curatorial acquisitions were the Lucille Clifton, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Marie Ponsot, Sarah E. Wright, and Nathaniel Mackey archives, and in collaboration with his colleagues, the addition of W.E.B. Du Bois's copy of David Walker's Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World.
During his 11 years at Emory, Kevin produced a wide-ranging corpus of poetry and cultural criticism. He has published 11 books and edited eight others. In February, Knopf published Blue Laws: Selected and Uncollected Poems 1995-2015. His influential volume of cultural criticism, The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness, won the PEN Open Book Award, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism, and was named a New York Times Notable Book. His Book of Hours (Knopf, 2014) was a finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Award and winner of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets; Jelly Roll (Knopf, 2003) was a finalist for the National Book Award.
The roster of Kevin's honors and awards is extensive and includes, among many other laurels, membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, the Donald Justice Poetry Prize, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize, the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Award, and Guggenheim, Lannan, and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships.
Kevin is widely recognized as a distinguished teacher, scholar, and public voice. He has held named professorships at Princeton, Indiana University, and Beloit College. His poetry, reviews, and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, and The American Scholar.
Across his writing, his curatorial work, and his teaching, Kevin has mapped a deeply textured account of American life. From his Amistad poems through his trenchant accounts of the lives and languages of both ordinary men and women and public figures such as Jack Johnson, Muhammad Ali, and Billie Holiday, to his insightful analyses of jazz, blues, and hip-hop forms, Kevin has described the trajectory of 400 years of national experience. His syncretic accounts of American social, musical, and cultural history are notable both for the breadth of their vision and for the vertiginous pleasures they afford.
We look forward to having Kevin among us.
I want to thank the members of the Schomburg search committee for their dedication and unfailing good counsel, and take particular note of the leadership of Co-Chair Gordon Davis. In addition to Gordon and myself, the Committee members were Elizabeth Alexander, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Raymond McGuire, Arva Rice, and Aysha E. Schomburg. I also want to thank Alvin Starks and Mary Yearwood for their continuing and exemplary work as the Schomburg's Interim Co-Directors. 
William P. Kelly
Andrew W. Mellon Director of the Research Libraries
The New York Public Library