Monday, June 28, 2010

Schomburg's Future Is In Doubt

One of Harlem's most treasured institutions, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, is facing a crossroads, and its very existence appears to be at risk.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black History

Arturo Alfonso Schomburg was a Puerto Rican born Afro-Latino who devoted his life to the study of the contributions of African Americans and Afro-Latino Americans. He wrote about African American and Caribbean culture and collected the art, literature, slave narratives, and other creations of the Caribbean and African American communities.

In 1926, after Schomburg's collection had become well respected around the globe, the New York Public Library purchased his collection for $10,000. Schomburg continued to build the collection after the purchase, and he was appointed as the curator of the Schomburg Collection of Negro Literature and Art, which, of course, was named after him.

The New York Public Library combined the Schomburg Collection with its 135th Street Harlem branch, and the entire collection was named the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in 1972. The Center now has more than 10 million items and continues to set the standard for Black cultural collections.

Future In Doubt

Now, the future of the Schomburg Center is in doubt.

Howard Dodson has led the Schomburg Center expertly since 1984. Of the 10 million items in the Center, half of them were acquired during the Dodson years. Now, after nearly 30 years, Howard Dodson is retiring, and the Schomburg Center must find a new leader.

Portions of the Harlem Community have become concerned about the potential for the Schomburg Center's collection to be broken into pieces and spread around New York City. For a collection that has been housed in Harlem for more than 80 years, concern about a potential move out of Harlem is understandable. The Schomburg Center and its collection have helped to define the 21st Century Harlem as the on-going and irreplaceable capital of African American culture.

The Amsterdam News wrote an editorial that capture the Harlem Community's concern about the future of the Schomburg Center.

It is not the New York Public Library that has made the Schomburg what it is today. It has been the Black people of the community.
From the mouth of Congressman Charlie Rangel: "It's all we've got. They've taken so much of our history and culture, but this is ours and we must fight to keep it."

Save the Schomburg! Save our history!


  1. any update on this a decision of the Bloomberg administration...has a meeting of community leaders been set with the administration to follow up

  2. I agree with anonymous. Please let us know if there are any updates. The Schomburg is one of NYC's treasures. I'm taking my students there this weekend.