The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture has named Michelle Commander as its new deputy director.

Commander will succeed Kinshasha Holman Conwill, who retired in December.

Commander has worked as the deputy director of research and strategic initiatives at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Prior to that, she was employed as Schomburg’s associate director and curator of the Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery.

“With her wide-ranging work on global slavery, West Africa, and Afrofuturism, Michelle is deeply anchored in history with an understanding of how historic collections intersect with our contemporary world,” said Kevin Young, the museum’s Andrew W. Mellon director. “She has a demonstrated record of embracing innovation to expand a museum’s reach to various communities.”

Commander’s duties at the downtown D.C. museum include supporting the work on the current Living History campaign and expanding the museum’s technologies. She will be responsible for assisting and collaborating with the overall planning, development, and management of the museum’s activities while leading the offices of Education and Publications.

She will also be tasked with developing partnerships and producing a learning and engagement environment among Smithsonian museums.

Commander received her bachelor’s degree from Charleston Southern University, master’s degrees from Florida State University and the University of Southern California and a doctorate from USC. She has written books and articles on Black history and has taught at the University of Tennessee.  

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