Robin D.G. Kelley—regarded as one of the nation's preeminent scholars in African American history—delivered Hampshire College's eleventh annual Eqbal Ahmad Lecture on October 15, 2008. His talk was titled "Confronting Obama: A Primer on Race and Empire for the New U.S. President."
Kelley is professor of American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California.
Kelley's book Yo' Mama's DisFunktional!: Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America was selected as one of the top ten books of 1998 by the Village Voice. Among other books he has authored are Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression (1990), Race Rebels: Culture Politics and the Black Working Class (1994), and Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination (2002).
His research interests include labor history, popular culture, the African diaspora, and jazz. He is currently completing a biography of jazz great Thelonious Monk.
Prior to joining the faculty of the University of Southern California, Kelley held positions as William B. Ransford Professor of Cultural and Historical Studies at Columbia University and chair of the New York University history department. At age 32, he became one of the youngest full professors in the United States.
He holds a doctorate in U.S. history and master's degree in African history from the University of California, Los Angeles.
The annual Eqbal Ahmad Lecture honors the teaching, scholarship and activism of the late Eqbal Ahmad, who was a long-time Hampshire College professor. Professor Ahmad's faculty colleagues, former students, family, and friends from around the globe have joined together to make this lecture series a continuing celebration of his life and work. Previous Eqbal Ahmad Lecturers include Kofi Annan, Edward Said, Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, and Seymour Hersh.