The poet and scholar Kevin Young has been named director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, a division of the New York Public Library and a leading repository for archival materials relating to African and African-American life, history and culture.
Mr. Young, a professor of English and creative writing and a curator of rare books and archives at Emory University, will take up the position in late fall. He succeeds the historian Khalil Gibran Muhammad, who left to become a professor at Harvard.
Mr. Young, 45, is the author of 11 books, including “Blue Laws: Selected and Uncollected Poems, 1995-2015” and “The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness,” which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. At Emory he helped spearhead a number of major acquisitions, including archives of Jack Kerouac, and Flannery O’Connor and Lucille Clifton.
“Kevin Young is one of the country’s most distinguished curators and writers,” William Kelly, the New York Public Library’s director of research libraries, said in a statement. “We’re delighted to welcome him.”
The Schomburg Center was named for the Puerto Rican-born black scholar and collector Arturo Schomburg, whose vast personal library it bought in 1926. During Dr. Muhammad’s five-year tenure it saw a 34 percent increase in attendance, according to the library, and created a new center for the study of trans-Atlantic slavery, among other initiatives.
Mr. Young, a graduate of Harvard and Stanford, is the son of Louisiana-born parents whose family history he has often explored in his poetry, along with the broader sweep of African-American and American history. In an interview he recalled his experiences reading his poetry at the Schomburg, and said that he wanted to improve access to the more than 10 million items in its non-circulating collection, while also emphasizing its role as a cultural center and gathering place.
“The Schomburg has always been this really important place for me and for the community,” Mr. Young said. “It’s such an interesting time for libraries and archives, given the rise of digital collections and changes in reading. I’m really eager to get down to the nitty-gritty of helping the Schomburg continue its journey into the 21st century.”
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