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Khalil Gibran Muhammad

Historian Khalil Gibran Muhammad was born on April 27, 1972 in Chicago, Illinois to Ozier Muhammad and Kimberly Muhammad-Earl. He completed his B.A. degree in economics at the University of Pennsylvania in 1993, and his Ph.D. degree in history at Rutgers University in 2004.

Initially intending to work in finance, Muhammad worked at Deloitte-Touche for almost two years before beginning his Ph.D. work in history. Following his graduation from Rutgers University in 2004, Muhammad worked as an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Vera Institute of Justice for two years. He then joined the faculty of Indiana University in Bloomington as an associate professor of history, where he taught for five years, focusing his teaching and research on the ideas of black criminality following the American Civil War. In 2011, Muhammad was selected as the next director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. While there, Muhammad sought to expand the center’s outreach and funding, focusing particularly on programming to attract younger audiences. In late 2015, Muhammad announced he was leaving the Schomburg Center to join the faculty of Harvard’s Kennedy School as professor of history, race, and public policy. He was also hired as the Suzanne Young Murray Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

Muhammad released The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America in 2010, which was awarded the John Hope Franklin Publication Prize from the American Studies Association in 2011. Since its publication, he is a frequent contributor on the topic, including an interview with Bill Moyers in 2012 and 2016. Muhammad also delivered lectures at the City University of New York, Rutgers University, Indiana University, and many others. Muhammad’s commentary on the racial past of the United States and contemporary policing and criminality was published in the New York Times, Washington Post, National Public Radio and others. While under his direction in 2015, the Schomburg Center won the National Medal for Museum and Library Service.

Muhammad and his wife, Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad, have three children: Gibran Mikkel, Jordan Grace, and Justice Marie.

Khalil Gibran Muhammad was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 1, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.011

Sex

Male

Interview Date

09/01/2016

Last Name

Muhammad

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Gibran

Schools

University of Pennsylvania

Kenwood Academy

Rutgers University School of Arts and Sciences

Arthur J. Dixon Elementary School

Morgan Park High School

First Name

Khalil

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

MUH02

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New Jersey

Interview Description
Birth Date

4/27/1972

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

South Orange

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Tacos

Short Description

Historian Khalil Gibran Muhammad (1972 - ) was the director emeritus of Harlem’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the author of The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America.

Employment

Deloitte-Touche

Vera Institute of Justice

Indiana University

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Harvard Kennedy School

Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Khalil Gibran Muhammad's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes his mother's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad talks about his white maternal ancestors

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes his mother's racial identity

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes his father's career

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes his father's relationship to the Nation of Islam

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad talks about the schism in the Nation of Islam

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad recalls his father's frustration with the Nation of Islam

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes his parents' relationship

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad talks about his family's legacy

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes the smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes the sounds of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes his relationship with his father's family, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes his relationship with his father's family, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad talks about his early experiences of religion

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes his church memberships

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad remembers Arthur Dixon Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad recalls his early academic success

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes his childhood activities

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad remembers working at Hyde Park Computers

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes his interest in computers

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad recalls meeting Robert Earl Jones

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad remembers the music of his teenage years

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad talks about the violence in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad talks about the origin of his name

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad remembers Ralph A. Austen

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes segregation in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad recalls his early interest in journalism

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad talks about growing up during an era of increased opportunity for African Americans

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes his father's community engagement

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad recalls his decision to attend the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes his experiences at the University of Pennsylvania

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad talks about the alumni of the University of Pennsylvania

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad talks about moving to the East Coast

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad recalls the water buffalo incident at the University of Pennsylvania

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes his protest against a racist student journalist, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes his protest against a racist student journalist, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes his protest against a racist student journalist, pt. 3

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad recalls his graduation from the University of Pennsylvania

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad talks about his experiences during college

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad recalls the arbitration of his assault by a campus security officer

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad talks about his position at Deloitte and Touche

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes his decision to attend Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad recalls preparing for his doctoral studies in history

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad remembers meeting his wife

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad talks about the topic of his dissertation

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad remembers conducting the research for his dissertation

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad remembers joining the faculty of Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad talks about his family

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes his community in Bloomington, Indiana, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes his community in Bloomington, Indiana, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad recalls how he came to direct the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad talks about his experiences as an instructor

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad remembers his fellowship at the Vera Institute of Justice in New York City

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad talks about studying criminal justice in the early 20th century

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad recalls studying racial discrimination in the criminal justice system

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes the early responses to 'The Condemnation of Blackness'

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad talks about his appointment to Harvard's Kennedy School

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad recalls his interview at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad recalls his interview at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad recalls his start as director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes his generation of African American leaders

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad talks about his tenure at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad remembers his first year as director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes his management style

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad recalls the renovation of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes the leadership of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad talks about expanding the audience of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad recalls hosting an event with Chimamanda Adichie and Zadie Smith

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes his influence as director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes the legacy of Jean Blackwell Hutson and Howard Dodson

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad recalls his decision to leave the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad recalls his decision to leave the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad recalls his decision to leave the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, pt. 3

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad reflects upon his tenure at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes his professorship at the John F. Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes his goals as a scholar

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes his hopes for the African American community

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$7

DAStory

7$6

DATitle
Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes his father's career
Khalil Gibran Muhammad talks about his tenure at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Transcript
Tell me about your father. Okay, give his name and a birthdate and what you know about his background (unclear)?$$Sure, so his name is [HistoryMaker] Ozier Muhammad, O-Z-I-E-R. He was born October 8, 1950 and grew up in Chicago [Illinois]. His mother [Eleanor Paschal Muhammad] was from Georgia and his father [Nathanial Muhammad] was born I believe in Michigan, but also might have come from Georgia, but he definitely grew up in, in Detroit [Michigan] where the Nation of Islam was first founded. My grandfather is about ninety, so he's still with us and my father grew up to a gigantic family with--he was one of ten and he was the second oldest son and I'm not sure if he is the third or second child, but he was very much a part of the Nation of Islam. It was his formative experience. He went to the University of Islam [Muhammad University of Islam, Chicago, Illinois] to be educated, talks about having taken some classes from his Uncle Wallace [Wallace Muhammad] who became Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, a very prominent member of a, sort of newly growing Sunni Islamic community that he lead after the Nation of Islam changed power from Elijah Muhammad to Louis Farrakhan [HistoryMaker Minister Louis Farrakhan], but I think the thing that makes my dad's story particular is of all of his siblings, he found his calling pretty early in life and as a late teenager started working as an assistant to a studio photographer on the South Side [Chicago, Illinois] not too far from the home base of the Nation, basically a mile east of where they lived in Chatham [Chicago, Illinois]. He grew up, my father grew up on 82nd [Street] and St. Lawrence [Avenue] and this studio was like on 83rd [Street] and Dorchester [Avenue] or Blackstone [Avenue]. So, once he started working in that space he decided that he wanted to be a photographer. He went to college and I think maybe one or two of his siblings eventually went to college, but my father went at the age when people eventually go to college at least as one imagines, so maybe nineteen he went to Columbia College [Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, Illinois], studied journalism and photography and graduated, started working at Ebony and Jet magazine and launched his career with people like Vandell Cobb and Bill Rhoden [William C. Rhoden] who just retired from The New York Times, also [HistoryMaker] Lerone Bennett was there. I mean it was a powerhouse as you well know back in 1974 when he joined. I have distinct memories of going to work with him and just meeting Mr. Bennett who handed me a copy of 'Before the Mayflower' ['Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America,' Lerone Bennett, Jr.] with a signed signature. My father was probably a little more of hippie than my mom [Kimberly Muhammad-Earl], sort of more counter-culturalist. Thinking about his background as a child of the Nation and then thinking about a changing world, I think he had a much greater racial consciousness than my mom and very-well read, very actively engaged in current events. Eventually, as he moved from Ebony, Jet to The Charlotte Observer to Newsday on Long Island [New York], began to travel the world, so in terms of my sense of my father by the time I was ten years old, he was incredibly focused on everything happening in the world, in the Reagan [President Ronald Wilson Reagan] years, anti-apartheid struggles, he eventually covered the famine in Ethiopia in 1985 for which he won a Pulitzer [Pulitzer Prize]. He took me to museums all of the time. He challenged me to think about the big picture all of the time. He exposed me to everyday events by taking me along with him to cover, particularly by the time he got to New York [New York], everything from sporting events to Ed Koch mayoral press conferences. So, I definitely attribute my father's own sense of wanting to be a journalist and to be engaged and active and learned, and not in the way that--my mother was an educator, she was certainly learned, but this was a different kind of interest and engagement with the picture that my dad passed on to me, and he's that way to this day. He reads voraciously, blogs, continues to cover things. He went to the Republication National Convention in Cleveland [Ohio], not as a paid employee, but as a curious person to cover it in case something happened. Of course, there weren't protests there and certainly talked about why that is, but that's, that's the dad that I remember, very fond of him, like my mother, but he, you know he pushed me more than my mom to find a, a significant purpose in life. I'll give you a good example. When I decided to leave public accounting to go to graduate school [Rutgers University, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, New Jersey], my mother said, "Well, why do you want to be a teacher, you're not gonna make any money. You know that's a terrible idea, I was a teacher," you know. In her mind, she thought I could be much more as measured by a career as a business person, and what that might mean in terms of my financial future. My father said, "That's wonderful," you know, "How can I help?" So, you have a sense of the differences.$That's the public face, what about behind?$$Behind, wow (laughter). So, all right I mean so, so the good part that helped a lot was that I was appointed in, let's just say the beginning of November, I didn't arrive until the end of July. So, there was a long transition period between the news of my coming and my actual arrival and, in the meantime, because I was an academic and essentially had you know some flexibility, I mean in some ways I neglected my students my last semester at Indiana [Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana], but between November and July I was coming to New York City [New York, New York] two times a month, sometimes more for various reasons. Some for specific meetings that were set up by Howard [HistoryMaker Howard Dodson] and the library more generally to understand processes. Some to meet people like Al Sharpton [HistoryMaker Reverend Al Sharpton], it just depended on whatever it was. Some--I was elected to Crain's Forty under 40 business magazine which was the library's doing. They nominated me and I was selected and so I had to come just for a photo shoot. Same thing happened with The Network Journal, African American business journal, Forty under 40, so I had to come in for that. So, for one reason or another I was coming in and I was spending time with Howard getting to know the staff and getting to know the colleagues at 42nd Street. So, I had a lot of experience coming in the door just from that exposure, and it definitely made me feel more confident, but there's nothing like showing up in a place like that the first day. Howard's, gone, you've got an assistant who's looking at you like you know, "What do you want me to do?" (Laughter) Phones ringing, there's mail that's already shown up months before I actually arrived, she hands me an envelope full of invoices that needed to be signed and dated so they could be processed, because Howard had been gone for a couple of weeks or a week or he hadn't--you know there was just stuff to do and people needed to move on with their work and they needed my input and I must say that one of the first things I said I'm gonna change here is I said, "I'm not signing every invoice, every single day that comes into this building." Howard had a different management style, it was more top down, and as a consequence of that he was approving everything, and I said, "I don't wanna have to approve everything. If you bought the paper you can approve it or your manager can approve it. Don't send me this stuff," and eventually that's how it worked and so early on that was my lesson, and the other thing I'd say in terms of the Harlem [New York, New York] community, it was very obvious to me that people needed to get to know me. That they had a great sense of propriety over the institution [Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York, New York]. They cared deeply about the institution and they did not know me. They were willing to give me a wide berth because of my family heritage. I think the fact that I had written a book ['The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America,' Khalil Gibran Muhammad] that was so explicitly about racism and wasn't some soft weird, squishy academic take on things that they wouldn't know what my politics were. That helped. Some word of mouth helped because people had seen me at Hue-Man [Hue-Man Bookstore and Cafe, New York, New York] and/or heard me on the radio [WBAI Radio, New York, New York] and they came into embrace me, but mostly the onus was on me to prove myself worthy of the job and that's been--that meant spending a tremendous amount of time, effort and energy, visible, on the street, in the lobby, taking meetings with whomever asked for one.