Harlem's Keeper of History Warns, 'Be Vigilant'

Khalil Gibran Muhammad, director of the Schomburg Center, tells The Root how the past inspires and motivates him.


(The Root) -- Khalil Gibran Muhammad says that he has the best job in the world as director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Overseeing one of the world’s great repositories of the African-American and African Diasporic experience is "the perfect marriage of my passion and what my paycheck is all about," he says.

On a typical day the Schomburg, a Harlem branch of the New York Public Library, might have a researcher studying the origins of stop-and-frisk laws, a documentarian watching an early black film or a tour group from South Africa examining the artistry of Jacob Lawrence.

Muhammad insists that history is the key to finding remedies and solutions for the urgent problems of the present day. Named for the second year in a row to the prestigious Root 100 list honoring African Americans of achievement and influence, Muhammad has a mission to inspire young scholars. He urges them not to be discouraged by what he calls the "messiness of race" because their work can make a difference to the world we live in.

In an interview with The Root, Muhammad talked about the source of his own motivation. Watch it here:

The Root encourages respectful debate and dialogue in our commenting community. To improve the commenting experience for all our readers we will be experimenting with some new formats over the next few weeks. During this transition period the comments section will be unavailable to users.

We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your continued support of The Root.

While we are experimenting, please feel free to leave feedback below about your past experiences commenting at The Root.