Dodson became chief of the Schomburg in 1984. Under his direction, the Center’s holdings doubled to 10 million. Acquisitions included the collections of Malcolm X, Lorraine Hansberry and Maya Angelou. Publishing projects Dodson spearheaded have included numerous microform editions of collections of original documents, a six-volume encyclopedia of African American history and culture, and a 30-volume collection of writings by African-American women.
Under Dodson’s stewardship, the Schomburg Center has been an innovator in using the Internet to increase access to library materials. He enhanced the quality of the Schomburg Center’s exhibitions, public programs, and special events. Attendance tripled to 120,000 people per year.
Dodson was born in Chester, Penn., in 1939. He graduated from West Chester State College in 1961 with a degree in social studies and secondary education and in 1964 received a master’s degree in history and political science from Villanova University. Dodson joined the Peace Corps in 1964, serving for two years in Ecuador and later as a national Peace Corps staff member. He then entered a doctoral program at the University of California, Berkeley where he focused on the comparative history of slavery in the Western Hemisphere.
Through the years, Dodson has lectured widely on various topics nationally and internationally. His books include Becoming American: The Africa-American Journey; In Motion: the African-American Migration Experience; Jubilee: the Emergence of African-American Culture; and The Black New Yorkers: The Schomburg Illustrated Chronology.
In recognition of his contribution to the development of the Schomburg Center, Dodson has been awarded honorary doctorates by Villanova University (2007), the City University of New York (2004), West Chester State University (2004), Adelphi University (2004) and Widener University (1987). In 2010, Dodson was designated a New York City “Living Landmark” by the New York Landmarks Conservancy