Made in Queens: Author & Historian Jelani Cobb

You may be familiar with Professor Jelani Cobb, celebrated New Yorker contributor and renowned writer and speaker on such topics as race, politics, history and culture.  What you may not know is that, like you, Jelani is a donor to Queens Library.  Born and raised in Queens, Jelani recently donated a public service computer for teens at the Hollis Library in the neighborhood where he grew up. The gift is dedicated to the memory of his mother.

Today, Jelani he stands as an accomplished writer and professor. His most recent book is “The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress.” He’s an associate professor of history and the director of the Africana Studies Institute, at the University of Connecticut. His articles and essays have appeared in The Washington Post, Essence, Vibe, Emerge, The Progressive, and Ebony among others, and he has been a featured commentator on National Public Radio, CNN, and more.

Jelani spent his early years in Hollis, where as a child, he signed up at the local library to get his first library card.  Literacy and education were valued highly in the Cobb household. Both of Jelani’s parents had migrated from the South, where they did not have access to high-quality schools. As a result, they were determined to give reading and learning important places in their family life. Cobb was taught to write at an early age by his father—an electrician with a third-grade education. Cobb described his father's "huge hand engulfing mine as he showed me how to scrawl the alphabet." Cobb has been writing ever since.

Professor Cobb was gracious enough to talk with us about his early experiences with the Library, his books, and the heated events of this past summer. Read more about him in the full blog interview here.