The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, one of The New York Public Library’s renowned research libraries, is a world-leading cultural institution devoted to the research, preservation, and exhibition of materials focused on African American, African Diaspora, and African experiences.

Arthur Schomburg arrived in NYC as teenager and worked as a printer, bellhop, elevator operator, and porter. And it was during the Harlem Renaissance that he made time to follow his passion: reading, writing, and collecting everything he could on the history of Africans and their descendants.

Schomburg’s vast collection of books, photographs, artwork, sheet music, newspapers, pamphlets, and memoirs documenting the experiences of African Americans was donated during the 1920s to the 135th Street branch of The New York Public Library.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division, The New York Public Library. “Pactolus Prime: Bookplate” 

Schomberg’s labor of love vastly increased the size of the existing 135th Street Branch, and it became the “seed library” for the modern Schomburg Center—the foundation upon which the Center’s current holdings of over 300,000 volumes was built. 

Watch footage of Arturo Schomburg in the 135th St. reading room with NYPL’s first black librarian, Catherine Latimer, circa 1937.