Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Legacy of an Afro-Boricua

The Puerto Rican Father of Black History

The Schomburg Center for Research and Black Culture, a branch of the New York Public Library.

I was in the fifth grade, attending my new school, P.S. 175-Manhattan in my new neighborhood Harlem, New York City. One day, while playing, I just happened to drift across the street, and noticed a bust of a black man in front of a two-story brownstone building specializing in black literature. Little did I know that it would years before I learned that this site was a the cornerstone of The New York Public Library's Division of Negro Literature, History, and Prints, which would later grow into the Schomburg Center for Research and Black Culture.

Arturo Alfonso Schomburg
January 24, 1874 (San Juan, Puerto Rico)
June 8, 1938 (Brooklyn, NY)

 It all started in San Juan, Puerto Rico, when a school teacher told a young black kid that blacks have no history and has never accomplished anything of note. This young black kid was so inspired to prove his teacher wrong, that he began his own readings and collected books on the accomplishments of black people all over the world. As he grew older, he got into debates with his classmates about the contributions of blacks.

The old Schomburg Collection located on 135th Street in Harlem, across from my elementary school P.S. 175-Manhattan.
 As an adult, he moved to New York City, where at first, he was involved in the revolutionary movements of immigrant Cubans and Puerto Ricans. Meanwhile, he met an African-American journalist who introduced him to New York's black intellectual community and continued to increase his knowledge and expanded his personal collection of books by and about black people. During this time he got involved in the Harlem Renaissance (originally the new Negro movement), a black social and literary movement that spread through black communities nationwide.

Arturo Alfonso loaned objects from his personal library to the New York Public Library until his total collection of 10,000 items was purchased by the Library with the assistance of the Carnegie Corporation. Today, at the current site of the Schomburg Center for Research and Black Culture, there are more than 5,000,000 items such as artifacts, recordings, manuscripts, motion picture films, newspapers, periodicals, photographs, prints, recorded music discs and sheet music. In addition, there is an 11,000 item digital library that can be accessed world wide by computer where you can browse more than 11,000 relating to African the African continent and the African Diaspora going all the way back to the 17th century.


  1. Hi,

    Thanks for your comment. Didn't really expect anyone to read it...just something that had to pour out, couldn't keep it bottled in.

    Take care.

  2. wow!! Do you have a link to the online database?

  3. Ebby, here is the link; thanks for asking. I also put the link in the text as well.


  4. Gracias, Brother Smith for this site! I am struggling to discover my lost Latino culture. I am Afro-Boricua but raised African American. Your site is a blessing!

    More, thank you for this story on Brother Arturo Schomburg. I call him Brother because he is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi, my fraternity. He has long been a hero of mine. Thanks for this exposure into a great Afro-Boricua!


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