Arturo Alfonso Schomburg was a Puerto Rican intellectual whose collection of Black culture became the core of the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
Arturo Schomburg of Puerto Rico
Schomburg was born in Santurce, San Juan, Puerto Rico on January 24, 1874. He was German African Puerto Rican.
A grade school teacher told him that Black people have no history, heroes or accomplishments. Of course that is ignorant nonsense from another era, but it inspired the young man to prove his teacher wrong.
He became a commercial printer and began to study Black literature.
New York Puerto Rican
Schomburg moved to New York City in 1891 and began collecting Black literature. The young man continued his research and began writing. He joined some of the first scholarly organizations in the United States for people of color.
He collected in Europe, Latin America and across the United States. He eventually built one of the world’s great collections of Black literature, art and media.
Harlem Renaissance Man
Schomburg was one of the scholars of the Harlem Renaissance (1918-mid 1930s).
The New York Public Library purchased the Schomburg collection in 1926, made him curator and renamed the 135th St Branch Library after him.
Schomburg was invited to curate the library at Fisk University, a historical Black university in Nashville, Tennessee.
He died in 1938 and is buried at Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn.
If You Want to Do Great Things, Go to the Library
Not many people get libraries named after them, and certainly no uncultured ones. Schomburg sure proved that foolish teacher wrong.
Some people say mean things just to make you upset so you can’t progress. It’s the colonizer’s game, but don’t play the game. Ignore it, go to the library and develop yourself.
Today we all follow in the footsteps of people like Arturo Schomburg who refused to be put down and held back. He is a great Puerto Rican, a great New Yorker, and a great American, an inspiration for all generations.