Speaker, Panel 2, Black Research Collections: Successes and Challenges
In 1997 Randall K. Burkett was hired as the first curator for African American collections at Emory University, and for the past twenty years he has been responsible for building the library’s collection of rare books, manuscripts, photographs, and print ephemera. In addition to acquisitions, he has been responsible for developing programs and exhibitions and for encouraging research use by Emory faculty and students as well as scholars from the United States and abroad. He has also raised money to establish an endowment for the collection.
While a graduate student, he started collecting books to support his research on African American religious history and on Marcus Garvey, the topic of his doctoral dissertation. Burkett published two books on Marcus Garvey and with others compiled a four-volume index to biographical sketches and portraits of nearly 35,000 African Americans, now available online via African American Biographical Database. While associate director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research at Harvard University (1985-1996) he served as associate editor of the Harvard Guide to African American History and for 20 years edited a newsletter on Afro-American religious history.
At the 2014 Schomburg Center conference “The State of Black Research Collections,” he moderated a panel on access, education, and outreach for Black collections. In August 2018 he will co-direct a seminar on the history of the African American book at the California Rare Book School at UCLA.