Professor Ibram X. Kendi joined the department of history faculty in August this year as an assistant professor. He has a joint appointment with the African American Studies program, and is one of our department’s two recently hired junior professors, the first in many–too many–years.
Dr. Kendi completed the PhD at Temple University in 2010, after earning a BA from Florida A & M University. He studies racists and antiracist ideas and movements. His award-winning book, The Black Campus Movement: Black Students and the Racial Reconstitution of Higher Education, 1965-1972, appeared in 2012. The recipient of numerous research fellowships and grants, he is currently working on two books, Stamped from the Beginning: A Narrative History of Racist Ideas in America, and Black Apple: A History of Malcolm X in New York. Before coming to UF, he taught at Brown University and SUNY College at Oneonta. You can read more about his career at his web site. http://www.ibram.org/#!bio/c1ktj
The blog recently sent Dr. Kendi a few questions to allow our community of students and alumni to get to know him. He promptly returned the following responses.
How are you finding life in Gainesville outside the university? Have you discovered a favorite place to spend your time?
I am enjoying life in Gainesville. I came from Providence [Rhode Island] and had just “experienced” the second worst winter in the city’s history. So we’ve been spending a lot of time outside, defrosting. So if students see me sweating profusely, then that’s me defrosting from way to many winters. To be serious, I am enjoying the town. I have not discovered a favorite place yet off campus. Maybe the Reggae Shack? But I have not eaten there in awhile.
Now that you are well into your first semester at UF, how are you finding the students compared with other institutions where you taught?
Since most of the undergraduate students at my previous institutions were born and raised in the northeast, they certainly have a different set of experiences than UF undergrads who were mostly born and raised somewhere in the southeast. Since their experiences were different, their perspectives are different. And so, I am in the process of learning the experiences and perspectives of UF students.
Do you have any particular expectations of students or yourself in your relationship as teacher and mentor with them?
I expect of myself to be respectful, courteous, and available to students. I except of myself to be compassionate and understanding to the many perspectives and points of views of students. I expect students to be open-minded, critical thinkers. I expect students to be serious about their education, while simultaneously making sure they enjoy their lives as college students, so they can grow not only academically, but as whole people.
What type of graduate students in terms of research interests would you like to attract to UF?
I would like to join my colleagues in attracting graduate students with interests in African American history, intellectual history, social movements, racist and antiracist ideas, student unrest, Black power studies, and southern Black history, among other areas. But most of all, I would like to attract passionate intellectuals, who really delight in the research and thinking and writing processes that history allows.
Can you tell us something about a current research project?
I am putting the finishing touches on my second book, which is titled, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. My publisher, Nation Books, is pretty high on the book (as you can tell from the subtitle). I must say, I’m excited about it too. Its been a long road to this point and it is set to come out in April. Stamped from the Beginning shares the entire story of anti-Black racist (and antiracist) ideas from their origins in the 15th century to the present. I think the most important contribution that this text makes is that it reorients the source of racist ideas and policies throughout American history. Typically, weassume that ignorance/hate has led to racist ideas, and then racists with racist ideas created the racist policies. My research found often times the powerful producers of racist ideas were not producing these racist ideas about Black inferiority because they were ignorant and/or hateful. This is what is commonly taught and assumed, and this is what I thought upon entering the research door of this book. But as I conducted the research and situated the development of racist ideas in their historical moments–with all the political, economic, and cultural factors at play–I came to realize something different. The historical evidence seems to point to self-interest of the powerful typically behind the production of racist policies, and the need to defend and normalize the unequal outcomes of racist policies behind the production or defense of racist ideas–and then our mass consumption of racist ideas has led to our ignorance and hate. I should stop there. But as you know, once you start asking some of your professors about their current research, you must always have a chair ready.
What sort of undergraduate and graduate courses do you plan to offer in the future?
Well, talking about this book project, I hope to offer a course on the history of racist ideas. I hope to also offer courses on American antiracism, Black education, social movements, Black power, and African American intellectual history.
Do you have in new ones you are currently developing?
I am currently thinking about developing a course entitled, Introduction to American Racism, which I plan to teach sometime during the 2016-2017 academic year.
What courses will you be teaching in the spring (or fall if you are on leave in the spring)?
In the spring, I will be teaching History of Hip Hop, and Sports and Society. I am excited about both classes. I hope to attract Hip Hop heads and sports fanatics, who will surely interrogate and analyze and debate issues in sports and Hip Hop in ways they had not done before. And, I hope to attract students who are not familiar with Hip Hop and sports.
Do you have anything in particular about yourself that you would like to share with the UF history community? Hobbies? Past-time interests? Family life?
- I’m an avid New York Knicks fan. The NBA season is about to start, so I’m really nervous.
- My lovely wife, Sadiqa, is a physician at Shands (I probably should have put my wife first. I’m hoping she doesn’t see this :)).
- I enjoy working out, but I have a long way to go to being as in shape as Professor Davis.
- I recently became a vegan. No, I’m not crazy. I actually enjoy being a vegan. And, no I don’t eat salads all day.