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Kevin Young Announced to Head National Museum of African American History and Culture

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture announced that Kevin Young will lead the museum’s director in January.

Young is currently the director of the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research and a poetry editor for the New Yorker.

“The museum has really cemented the case that we’re telling an American story that is particular but also for all Americans,” Young said. “It’s a leader in how a museum can be a creative place of engagement, a place that speaks to us on lots of different levels. How can we chronicle this particular moment? How can we provide a look at the pandemics of COVID and racism? I’m looking forward to continuing to do that in an innovative way.”

With the announcement, he will be leaving the Schomburg Center after four years but will keep his position as an editor with the New Yorker.

A graduate of Harvard College, with masters from Brown University, Young was a professor of creative writing and English at Emory University for 11 years.

At the Schomburg, Young raised $10 million in gifts and founded a literary festival. With the institution shut down due to the global health crisis, he put together a 95-book “Black Liberation Reading List” and staged accompanying programming.

His predecessor, Lonnie Bunch III, has been the museum’s director since it was founded four years ago.

“I am both unbelievably happy that somebody of his caliber is going to carry on, and a little sad. I can’t go back,” Bunch told the Washington Post.

“He understands that part of the opportunity to engage new audiences, younger audiences, is going to be done digitally,” Bunch said. “He can dip into it with his digital knowledge.”

Today, the African American Museum employs 180 people, full-time, with a $51 million annual budget, attracting approximately 2 million visitors last year.

During the search for a new director, Spencer Crew stepped in as interim director, after Bunch was appointed secretary to the Smithsonian.

Bunch is now the first-ever Black man to lead the national museums.


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