Mellon Foundation Director
Kevin Young is the Mellon Foundation Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. As the nation's largest museum dedicated to telling the African American story, the 19th museum in the Smithsonian complex welcomes 2 million annual visitors and engages an international audience through world-class online programming and digital access to its collections.
Prior to joining the Smithsonian, Young served as the Director of the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture from 2016-2021, where he oversaw significant increases to its funding, archive acquisitions, and visitor reach. A professor for two decades, he began his career in museums and archives at Emory University in 2005, first as Curator of the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library and later as the Curator of Literary Collections, while serving as Candler Professor of English and Creative Writing.
An award-winning author of fourteen books of poetry and prose, Young is the poetry editor of the New Yorker, where he also hosts the poetry podcast. Young’s most recent works include Stones (2021), Brown (2018) and Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts & Fake News (2017), which was longlisted for the National Book Award and a National Book Critics Circle Award; two have also been named New York Times Notable Books. Other noteworthy titles include Blue Laws: Selected & Uncollected Poems 1995-2015 (2016), longlisted for the National Book Award; Book of Hours (2014), winner of the Lenore Marshall Prize and his nonfiction debut The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness (2012), which won the PEN Open Award and was named a New York Times Notable Book. His third poetry collection Jelly Roll: a blues (2003) was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.
Young is also the editor of nine volumes, most recently the anthology African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song, released in fall 2020 from Library of America. The collection was named one of the best books of 2020 by the New York Times Book Review, Esquire, TIME, the Atlantic, Good Morning America, O, the Oprah Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, Shelf Awareness, Lit Hub, and Barnes & Noble. The New York Times called it “monumental and rapturous”; NPR’s “Fresh Air” named it “the year’s most revelatory book”; and TIME magazine describes it as “a document both breathtaking and inspiring, historical and personal.”
Young holds a Bachelor of Arts from Harvard College and a Master of Fine Arts from Brown University. He has held a Stegner Fellowship in Poetry at Stanford, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, and a NEA fellowship. Director Young is active across the art and cultural community. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and was named a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2020.
Secretary, Smithsonian Institution
Founder and Managing Partner, Grain Management LLC
President, Rutgers University
Founder, Urban One, Inc.
LaTanya R. Jackson
Actress, director, and producer
Brian T. Moynihan
Chairman and CEO, Bank of America
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Linda Johnson Rice
Chairman, Johnson Publishing Company, Inc.
Founder and CEO, Pendulum Holdings, LLC
Commissioner of Higher Education, State of Massachusetts
CEO, The Wentworth Group, LLC
President emeritus, Howard University
Executive chairman, BlackIvy Group, LLC
Chairman and CEO, OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network and Harpo, Inc.
Scholarly Advisory Committee
With noted historian Dr. John Hope Franklin (1915-2009) as its Founding Chairman beginning in 2005, the museum created a scholarly advisory committee to help shape its intellectual agenda, exhibition content and programming.