MAAP | Mapping the African American Past

Then
Now

Known as “The Father of Black History,” Arthur Schomburg collected everything he could find on black culture. His collection grew into a great research library in Harlem.

Arturo "Arthur" Schomburg

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is located at 515 Malcolm X Boulevard at 135th Street. The library includes 6 million items from books to music, photographs, films, and artwork. 

Current view of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Schomburg Library

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture holds one of the best library collections focused on black history in the world. The collection was begun by a young black man newly arrived from Puerto Rico named Arturo Alfonso Schomburg. Arthur Schomburg (1874–1938), as he was called, worked as an elevator operator, bellhop, porter, and printer. On his own time he followed his passion: reading, writing, and collecting everything he could on the history of Africans and their descendants. It was said that Schomburg had a fifth-grade teacher who told him “Black people have no history, no heroes, no great moments.” He would prove that teacher very wrong.

Schomburg arrived in New York City at the age of 17 and became part of the exciting scene known as the Harlem Renaissance. Here he continued adding books, photographs, artwork, sheet music, newspapers, pamphlets, and memoirs to his growing collection.

In 1926 his whole incredible collection was sold to the 135th Street branch library. Even then Schomburg continued to add to it, often using his own money. When he began serving as curator at the library in 1932, he was able to reach out to young scholars. Schomburg told one scholar, “What you’re calling African history, Negro history, are the missing pages of World history.” After Schomburg’s death in 1938, the library was renamed in his honor.

This entry contributed by Curriculum Concepts International

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The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is located at 515 Malcolm X Boulevard at 135th Street. The library includes 6 million items from books to music, photographs, films, and artwork
This photo shows Arturo "Arthur" Schomburg in about 1896.



Produced by CCNMTL, Chase, Teachers College, and CCI