Kahlil Greene ’22 was recently honored by the Peabody Awards for an Instagram video series documenting racism in New York City’s past.

Kahlil Greene ’22 made his first TikTok video on a whim in response to a January 2021 social media post from the Federal Bureau of Investigation in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Greene’s video, which criticized the mainstream media for “whitewashing” King’s memory, went viral, with more than 1 million views, and he soon made more videos on the topic (including one that noted the FBI’s attempts to discredit and silence King). Greene, known as the Gen-Z Historian, has been making “Hidden History” content ever since.

In June, Greene was honored by the prestigious Peabody Awards for his work, recognized for excellence in storytelling for a series of videos he made on Instagram with Ariel Viera called “The Hidden History of Racism in New York City.” The short clips—the longest is 59 seconds—highlight the troubling history behind some of the most famous parts of the city, including Lincoln Center, Wall Street, and Central Park. 

Greene, a Maryland native who was elected Yale’s first Black student body president in 2019 initially planned to study computer science at Yale. 

He switched first to economics and then to political science but found both subjects too theoretical. Instead, he found his place in history—in particular a class taught by Professor Daniel Magaziner that he sat in on with a friend.

“History felt very concrete,” he says. “It’s something that happened. I can tell a story about history to any human being, and they can relate to it and jump in. Not everyone can do that with computer science or economics.”

Greene ultimately studied social change and social movements—even as he was living through a major social change and social movement (he led Yale through the COVID-19 pandemic and the protests that followed the murder of George Floyd).

“You rarely realize how big the moment is as you live through it,” Greene says. But he adds that he does try to view current events through a wider lens. “I operate with the mindset of trying to understand how ideas will age over time—what the right side of history will be.”

Greene turned down a job at McKinsey & Co. to become a full-time content creator, and the decision has more than paid off. He is represented by the WME talent agency; has received, along with other key influencers, White House briefings on Ukraine and the Inflation Reduction Act; and has a forthcoming book compiling some of his Hidden History stories.

Greene views his work as a way of elevating historians' work, including Yale's faculty (last year, he made a video with Professor Ned Blackhawk).

“The entire trajectory of my work is realizing people don’t know so much about our history and that knowing more about our history can help us understand the world today and prevent issues in the future,” he says.

The Peabody Awards honored Greene “for utilizing social video to share powerful truths in an innovative format.” He and Viera made 15 videos together, ultimately submitting six for consideration. But they could have made many, many more, and Greene plans to.

“There’s no shortage—not even a little bit,” he says. “American history is so brutal.”