Michelle Commander joined the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture as Associate Director and Curator of the Lapidus Center in August 2018.
She received her Ph.D. in American Studies and Ethnicity from the University of Southern California. Commander’s research has centered on slavery and memory, diaspora studies, heritage tourism, literary studies, and Black social movements. Her book Afro-Atlantic Flight: Speculative Returns and the Black Fantastic (Duke University Press, 2017) examines historic and contemporary Black American journeys toward imagined “Africas” in Bahia, Brazil, Ghana, and the U.S. South.
Most recently, Commander served as a tenured associate professor of English and Africana Studies at the University of Tennessee. In 2012-2013, she was awarded a Fulbright Teaching/Research grant to Ghana; Commander is also a Ford Foundation scholar. A native of the midlands of South Carolina, she is at work on a memoir on mobility and slavery’s afterlives as well as a monograph on nineteenth and twentieth century Black speculative arts on slavery and democracy.
Commander will help further the Lapidus Center and the Schomburg Center’s mission by developing acquisitions, exhibitions, digitization priorities, and curating the annual Harriet Tubman Book Prize and the biennial conference. A scholar herself, she will also help in the selection of fellowship recipients and the tenure of short-term fellows, including connecting scholars with the collections. Ultimately, as Associate Director and Curator of the Lapidus Center, Commander will support the development, management, and care of the Lapidus collection and all aspects of the Lapidus Center as well as build bridges across the Schomburg Center.