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Robin D.G. Kelley, Leading African-American Studies Historian, Joins Columbia

By Katie Moore

Robin D.G. Kelley

Robin D.G. Kelley, chair of New York University's history department, award-winning author and leading United States African-American studies scholar, has been appointed to Columbia's faculty. Kelley will be a full professor in the anthropology department effective July 2003, and will help shape and guide programs for Columbia's Institute for Research in African-American Studies.

Kelley joins a nationally prominent roster of interdisciplinary Africana experts at Columbia, including: Manning Marable, director of the Institute and professor of history, political science and public affairs; Professor of Anthropology Steven Gregory; Professors of Sociology Mignon Moore and Sudhir Venkatesh; literary scholars Professors Robert G. O'Meally and Farah J. Griffin.

"Robin Kelley's appointment is a major addition to the University's important program in African-American studies," said Alan Brinkley, Columbia's provost-designate and chair of the Department of History. "His work has already had a major impact on scholarship in many disciplines, and he will help immeasurably in increasing the stature and strengthening the interdisciplinary character of the field, both at Columbia and elsewhere. We are very fortunate to be able to welcome him to our faculty."

By the age of 32, Kelley was one of the youngest full professors in the country and author of two books, including the award-winning "Race Rebels: Culture, Politics, and The Black Working Class." His teaching and research interests have focused on African diaspora, urban studies, working class radicalism and cultural history with an emphasis on music.

Kelley has served as chair of the history department at New York University since 2002, and professor of history and Africana studies since 1994. As a distinguished visiting professor in African-American studies, he taught at Columbia in 1996 and served as Columbia's Louis Armstrong Professor of Jazz Studies 2000-2001. He also held associate and assistant professor positions at the University of Michigan and at Emory University.

"One of the most outstanding social scientists of his generation, Robin is an engaged thinker and a leading voice for contemporary black urban issues," said Marable. "We are pleased to have such a superb scholar and public intellectual at Columbia."

In addition to his now seven books in print, Kelley has written more than 100 essays, opinion pieces, and book reviews for The Journal of American History, The Nation, New Politics, The New York Times, Black Music Research Journal, The Chronicle of Higher Education and other publications. He has edited and co-edited copious works and is on the editorial board for a dozen publications on music, popular culture, African studies and American history, including the Institute for Research in African-American Studies Journal Souls. Kelley has received numerous awards for his writing over the years, and has served as an advisor for more than a dozen film projects, including Ken Burns' "Jazz" and Peter Jennings' "The American Century."

Kelley also has been granted fellowships from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Dartmouth College, University of Melbourne, Australia, and University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and is the recipient of the Golden Dozens Teaching Prize from New York University. He was on the board of the New York State Council for Humanities (1996-98), the Rockefeller Foundation Grants in Humanities Review (1995, 1996 and 1998); and the program committee for the Organization of American Historians (1993-1994), and is a member of the Society of American Historians.

Kelley has a Ph.D. in United States history and an M.A. in African history from UCLA, and a B.A. in history from California State University, Long Beach. At Columbia, Kelley plans to take a year off from teaching to focus on research and writing. He is currently drafting a detailed biography on jazz musician Thelonious Monk entitled "Misterioso: In Search of Thelonious Monk" (under contract, The Free Press).

Published: Jun 12, 2003
Last modified: Jun 20, 2003

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