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Ibram X. Kendi

#blackhistoryProfilesFebruary 18, 2022

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi is an acclaimed anti-racism scholar, writer, activist, and historian of race and discriminatory policy in the United States.

Kendi was born in New York to activist parents who had come of age during the Black power movement. He studied sports journalism at Florida A&M University and worked for several newspapers before applying to the graduate program in African American Studies at Temple University. His doctoral dissertation focused on the 1960s student activism that would lead to the creation of the first Black studies programs.

At 34, he was the youngest recipient of the National Book Award for nonfiction for Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America in 2016, which chronicles the story of racist thought and racist policies. The National Book Foundation judges called it “a masterful voyage through the history of U.S. political rhetoric, beginning with Cotton Mather and ending with hip-hop …  With his learning, he dares us to find a cure.” Kendi also helped write versions of Stamped for children and teens.

After he received the National Book Award, Kendi was recruited to American University, where he founded the Antiracist Research and Policy Center.

While Stamped exposed the history of American racism, Kendi’s next book would create a roadmap for fighting racism. Published in 2020, How to Be an Antiracist is part memoir, part social analysis. Kendi breaks about how inequity and discrimination can still be so prevalent in a society in which so few people think of themselves as racist, let alone understand the role they play in the perpetuation of racist systems. “The only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it,” said Kendi, “and then dismantle it.”

Since 2020, Kendi has served as director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research. BU also awarded him its endowed Andrew W. Mellon Professorship. He is just the second person in the university’s history to receive this honor, the first being Elie Wiesel. 

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