Robin Kelley in Oxford, 2010.
Robin Davis Gibran Kelley|
March 14, 1962
New York City, New York
|Residence||View Park-Windsor Hills, California|
California State University, Long Beach (BA)|
University of California, Los Angeles (MA, PhD)
|Notable works||Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original|
|Spouse||Lisa Gay Hamilton (m. 2009)|
From 2006 to 2011, he was Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California (USC), and from 2003 to 2006 he was the William B. Ransford Professor of Cultural and Historical Studies at Columbia University. From 1994 to 2003, he was a professor of history and Africana Studies at New York University (NYU) as well the chair of NYU's history department from 2002 to 2003. Kelley has also served as a Hess Scholar-in-Residence at Brooklyn College. In the summer of 2000, he was honored as a Montgomery Fellow at Dartmouth College, where he taught and mentored a class of sophomores, as well as wrote the majority of the book Freedom Dreams.
During the academic year 2009–10, Kelley held the Harmsworth Chair of American History at Oxford University, the first African-American historian to do so since the chair was established in 1922. He was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship in 2014.
Born in New York City, Robin Kelley earned his Bachelor's degree from California State University, Long Beach, in 1983. By 1987 he had earned his Master's in African history and doctorate in US history from UCLA.
History and background
After earning his doctorate, he began his career as an Assistant Professor at Southeastern Massachusetts University, then to Emory University, and the University of Michigan, where he was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure. He later moved to the Department of History at New York University, where he was promoted to the rank of Professor and taught courses on U.S. history, African-American history, and popular culture. At the age of 32, he was the youngest full professor at NYU. He is an honorary fellow of the Rothermere American Institute at the University of Oxford.
Kelley has spent most of his career exploring American and African-American history, with a particular emphasis on radical social movements and the political dynamics at work within African-American culture, including jazz, hip-hop, and visual arts.
Although influenced by Marxism, Kelley has eschewed a doctrinaire Marxist approach to aesthetics and culture, preferring a modified surrealist approach. He has described himself in the past as a "Marxist surrealist feminist who is not just anti something but pro-emancipation, pro-liberation."
Kelley has published several books focusing upon African-American history and culture as well as race relations, including Race Rebels: Culture, Politics, and the Black Working Class, and Yo' Mama's DisFunktional!: Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America. Kelley is also a prolific essayist, having published dozens of articles in scholarly journals, anthologies, and in the popular press, including the Village Voice, Boston Review, and the New York Times.
His book Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original (Free Press, 2009), received several honors, including Best Book on Jazz from the Jazz Journalists Association and the Ambassador Award for Book of Special Distinction from the English-Speaking Union. It also received the PEN Open Book Award. The family of Thelonious Monk, notably his son T. S. Monk, granted Kelley access to rare historical documents for his biography. No other scholar has ever had such access and support from the Monk family. Kelley's most recent book, Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times (2012), explores the relationship between jazz and Africa in the era of decolonization and Civil Rights. He is currently completing A World to Gain: A History of African Americans, with Earl Lewis and Tera Hunter and a biography of journalist and adventurer Grace Halsell.
- Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990)
- Race Rebels: Culture, Politics, and the Black Working Class (New York: The Free Press, 1994)
- Co-edited with Sidney J. Lemelle, Imagining Home: Class, Culture, and Nationalism in the African Diaspora (London: Verso Books, 1995).
- Into the Fire: African Americans Since 1970 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996)
- Yo' Mama's DisFunktional!: Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America (Boston: Beacon Press, 1997)
- with Howard Zinn and Dana Frank, Three Strikes: The Fighting Spirit of Labor's Last Century (Boston: Beacon Press, 2001)
- Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination (Boston: Beacon Press, 2002)
- Co-edited with Earl Lewis, To Make Our World Anew: A History of African Americans (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000). Two-volume edition, 2004.
- Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original (New York: The Free Press, 2009)
- Co-edited with Franklin Rosemont, Surrealism - Black, Brown and Beige: Writings and Images from Africa and the African Diaspora (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2009)
- Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2012)
- "Robin D. G. Kelley - History (Appointed Fall 2011)", Biography at UCLA College of Letters and Science, Division of Social Sciences.
- "Robin D. G. Kelley - Distinguished Professor of History & Gary B. Nash Endowed Chair in United States History", UCLA Department of History.
- Kirsten Holguin, "Renowned Scholar Joins USC College", USC Dornsife, March 1, 2006.
- Katie Moore, "Robin D.G. Kelley, Leading African-American Studies Historian, Joins Columbia", Columbia News, June 12, 2003.
- "Robin Kelley, 2014 - US & Canada Competition Humanities - U.S. History", Fellow, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
- "Robin D.G. Kelley – Professor of African American Studies/Author", APB Speakers international.
- Ray, Elaine, "Robin Kelley brings grass-roots movements to history's grand narrative", Stanford Report, July 29, 1998. Stanford News Service. Retrieved March 9, 2009.
- Robin D. G. Kelley - Expert in African American history, including black radical movements and the politics of jazz", USC Press Room.
- "LisaGay Hamilton – Biography", IMDb.
- UCLA faculty page.
- "Profile of Robin D.G. Kelley", Stanford Report, July 29, 1998.
- Dr. Robin D. G. Kelley, "Multiculturalism and the Global Youth Culture", February 9, 2004.
- "Race-The Power of an Illusion". Interview with Robin D. G. Kelley, PBS, 2003.
- Robin Kelley, "Ain’t But a Few of Us: Black jazz writers tell their story #9", Open Sky Jazz, September 17, 2009.
- Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original - Official Website.
- A New Look At An American Original, Fresh Air, Interview by Terry Gross, December 8, 2009.
- Appearances on C-SPAN