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.
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.
Often termed one of the fathers of African-American Studies, Schomburg passionately and prohetically states his philosophy in his 1925 essay “The Negro Digs Up His Past” :
“The American Negro must remake his past in order to make his future….For him, a group tradition must supply compensation for persecution, and pride of race the antidote for prejudice. History must restore what slavery took away, for it is the social damage of slavery that the present generations must repair…. we find the Negro thinking more collectively, more retrospectively than the rest, and apt out of the very pressure of the present to become the most enthusiastic antiquarian of them all. “