Professor Abdul Alkalimat, who has been a member of the faculty at GSLIS and the Department of African American Studies since 2007, retired from the University of Illinois on May 31.
Alkalimat’s research interests include digital inequality, community informatics, and African American intellectual history as well as all aspects of Black liberation. At GSLIS, Alkalimat co-led the Community Informatics Research Laboratory with Assistant Professor Kate Williams. He taught courses on the digital divide; Black people and information technology; and African American bibliography.
“The opportunity to be part of community informatics at GSLIS has been a rewarding experience. Community informatics attends to the cutting edge of the information revolution’s transformation of the local community, and GSLIS continues to play a leading role. My bucket list is long, but I plan to continue this work in various ways,” Alkalimat said.
Among the many accolades he received during his career of nearly five decades, Alkalimat was honored on campus with the 2008 Outstanding Teaching in African American Studies Award. The quality of his teaching was reflected in the recognition and respect he earned from his students, which was of primary importance to him. Examples of his students’ appreciation include making a donation to the School in his name, and years after graduation, enrolling their children in his classes and reminiscing about their time at GSLIS.
Alkalimat has focused for nearly five decades on the field he helped to found, African American studies, particularly the history and sociology of Black liberation. His textbook, Introduction to African American Studies, was the first of its kind, published in seven editions over the years and now used freely in an online edition. While at Illinois, he video-recorded several semesters of lectures; those recordings are used today by individuals in the U.S. and abroad. In the mid-1990s, Alkalimat began to study information technology, inventing a subfield called eBlack Studies that now has its own journal and a network of scholars.
“Abdul is one of the nation’s leading figures working at the intersection of African American studies and community informatics, and we have had the very good fortune to have had him at GSLIS for most of the last decade. I am pleased to say that he will still be in Champaign-Urbana and still involved in the work of the School,” said GSLIS Dean Allen Renear.
Alkalimat has authored several books, including The African American Experience in Cyberspace, Malcolm X for Beginners, and Black Power in Chicago: Harold Washington and the Crisis of the Black Middle Class. He co-authored, with Assistant Professor Kate Williams and UIC’s Doug Gills, Job?Tech: The Technological Revolution and Its Impact on Society. As a result of teaching in China he collaborated with three colleagues to produce Community Informatics in China and the US: Theory and Research. His next book (again with Williams) is Roots and Flowers: The Life and Work of Afro-Cuban Librarian Marta Terry Gonzalez. Alkalimat co-authored and later helped to oversee the grant that won federal funding of high-speed Internet for Champaign-Urbana called UC2B.
Alkalimat currently serves on the editorial boards of The Black Scholar and Fire!!! and manages several research websites, including brothermalcolm.net and eBlackStudies.org. He started and edited for seventeen years the largest discussion list for Black Studies, H-Afro-Am. He has taught at institutions from coast to coast (including Fisk, Northeastern, U of Toledo, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, and UIC) and at Freie Universität Berlin, Oxford, Peking University, and the University of Ghana. He holds doctoral and master’s degrees in sociology from the University of Chicago and a bachelor’s degree in sociology and philosophy at Ottawa University.