Robin D.G. Kelley: Says he's leaving Columbia because he was shunned

Historians in the News

Robin D.G. Kelley, the well-known African-American studies scholar, is not getting a raise or any other perks when he leaves Columbia University for the University of Southern California this summer. So why is he bailing out on the Ivy League?

Mr. Kelley says Columbia's history department shunned him — forcing him to take an appointment in anthropology when he joined the faculty in 2003.

"I'm sort of tired of being at an institution where my own department doesn't accept me," says Mr. Kelley, who has worked with Columbia's Institute for Research in African-American Studies and its Center for Jazz Studies. A prolific writer, he is conducting research for a book on Thelonious Monk.

Mr. Kelley, who led the history department at New York University before moving to Columbia, says he thought he could handle working outside his discipline, but "I felt disconnected."

Alice Kessler-Harris, the chairwoman of Columbia's history department, said at first the department did not offer Mr. Kelley a position because it already had a historian who did similar work. Later, historians offered to extend Mr. Kelley a courtesy appointment, she said, but he never took the department up on the offer.

At Southern Cal, Mr. Kelley will be both a history professor and a scholar in the university's program in American Studies and Ethnicity. "USC's ethnic studies program is one of the largest and most vibrant in the country," he says.

But there is a back story — a woman, to be precise. "You can say, He's going for love," says Mr. Kelley, who will not identify his new partner by name, but says she is a "high-profile celebrity" in theater, television, and film.

Mr. Kelley and Diedra Harris-Kelley, who have a daughter, are divorcing, and Mr. Kelley says he'll move to Los Angeles "as soon as possible."

Read entire article at Chronicle of Higher Education

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Laura Walker - 8/11/2006

It’s too bad Kelley’s public doesn’t know what he really is. This man is a most crafty and manipulative person. He’s told a room full of his friends and family that HE chose the Anthropology dept at Columbia because he was trying to get away from History, and move into music and culture, and didn’t want to get “stuck” counseling a bunch of incompetent PhD students on their dissertations while he could be playing music and working on his book. He took a year of paid leave from BOTH NYU and Columbia before taking the position, in order to finish his Thelonius Monk book. And now he’s taking another - to finish the same book. It's truly sickening - do you think all these kids know how their $35,000/yr tuition is being squandered? He wasn’t shunned by Columbia. He’s going to USC for one reason - because his wife caught him one too many times. He knows nothing of family. His philandering is no doubt at the root of his daughters infamous shoplifting and other "social challenges” I’ve heard about over the years.

It instills awe that he manages to perpetuate this image of being a supporter of black women when he has done nothing but MISUSE and abuse them over the years. He always professes that he’s “not a philanderer like Cornel West.” But he’s much worse. Kelley has sworn his undying love to young women before. He claimed to be divorcing his wife MANY times, I know of ONE he carried on with a young woman a few years ago when he asked her parents for her hand in marriage. (I’m a friend of her parents.) After creatively securing her trust, he pulled the rug out from under her. When she realized how sick he was, and found out that he had carried on many affairs, she broke it off, not wanting to be with a man who constantly cheats on his wife. This cradle-robber continued to pursue her for months, but she turned him away and finally stopped responding to his calls, knowing that he’d find another woman to fool very soon. And she was right.