Arturo Alfonso Schomburg : biography
Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, also Arthur Schomburg (January 24, 1874 – June 8, 1938), was a Puerto Rican historian, writer, and activist in the United States who researched and raised awareness of the great contributions that Afro-Latin Americans and Afro-Americans have made to society. He was an important intellectual figure in the Harlem Renaissance. Over the years, he collected literature, art, slave narratives, and other materials of African history, which was purchased to become the basis of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, named in his honor, at the New York Public Library (NYPL) branch in Harlem.
Marriage and family
On June 30, 1895, Schomburg married Elizabeth Hatcher of Staunton, Virginia. She had come to New York as part of a wave of migration from the South that would increase in the 20th century and be known as the Great Migration. They had three sons: Maximo Gomez; Arthur Alfonso, Jr. and Kingsley Guarionex Schomburg.
After Elizabeth died in 1900, Schomburg married Elizabeth Morrow Taylor of Williamsburg, North Carolina. They were married on March 17, 1902, and had two sons: Reginald Stanton and Nathaniel José Schomburg.
The Schomburg Collection of Negro Literature and Art
After the NYPL purchased his extensive collection of literature, art and other materials in 1926, they appointed Schomburg curator of the Schomburg Collection of Negro Literature and Art, named in his honor, at the 135th Street Branch (Harlem) of the Library. It was later renamed the Arthur Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture., New York Public Library
Between 1931 and 1932 Schomburg served as Curator of the Negro Collection at the library of Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee, helping direct their acquisition of materials. During 1932 he traveled to Cuba. While there he met various Cuban artists and writers, and acquired more material for his studies.
He was granted an honorary membership of the Men’s Business Club in Yonkers, New York. He also held the position of treasurer for the Loyal Sons of Africa in New York and was elevated being the past master of Prince Hall Lodge Number 38, Free and Accepted Masons (F.A.M.) and Rising Sun Chapter Number 4, R.A.M.
Following dental surgery, Schomburg became ill and died in Madison Park Hospital, Brooklyn, New York, on June 8, 1938. He was buried in Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn.
Schomburg was born in the town of Santurce, Puerto Rico (now part of San Juan) to María Josefa,, History Notes, Global African Community, accessed 2 Feb 2009. a freeborn black midwife from St. Croix, and Carlos Federico Schomburg, a merchant of German heritage.
While Schomburg was in grade school, one of his teachers claimed that blacks had no history, heroes or accomplishments. Inspired to prove the teacher wrong, Schomburg determined that he would find and document the accomplishments of Africans on their own continent and in the diaspora. Schomburg was educated at San Juan’s Instituto Popular, where he learned commercial printing. At St. Thomas College in the Danish-ruled Virgin Islands, he studied Negro Literature.
By the 1920s Schomburg had amassed a world-renowned collection which consisted of artworks, manuscripts, rare books, slave narratives and other artifacts of Black history. In 1926 the New York Public Library purchased his collection for $10,000 with the help of a grant from the Carnegie Corporation. The collection formed the cornerstone of the Library’s Division of Negro History at its 135th Street Branch in Harlem. The library appointed Schomburg curator of the collection, which was named in his honor: the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Schomburg used his proceeds from the sale to fund travel to Spain, France, Germany and England, to seek out more pieces of black history to add to the collection. In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante named Schomburg to his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.Asante, Molefi Kete (2002). 100 Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Amherst, New York. Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-963-8.