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This Day In History: January 24th
Afro-Puerto Rican historian, Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, amassed an extensive collection of items pertaining to the achievements of people of African descent. In addition to his work as a historian and curator, Schomburg became a trusted source for his research and writing.
Arturo Alfonso Schomburg was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on January 24, 1874. His mother was a free Black woman from St. Croix, and his father was Puerto Rican (and of German descent). He grew up in Puerto Rico, which is where his fascination with Black history and accolades began.
At the age of 17, Schomburg moved to New York City and worked a variety of odd jobs. Schomburg co-founded Las Dos Antillas in 1892 after taking an interest in the political affairs of Puerto Rico and Cuba. He also co-founded the Negro Society for Historical Research in 1911 and wrote for publications such as The Crisis. One of his pieces, “The Negro Digs Up His Past,” was published in Alain Locke’s anthology The New Negro.
Schomburg spent his free time exploring rare bookstores and collecting documents, pamphlets, artwork and other artifacts that were connected to the diaspora. By 1926, Schomburg accumulated more than 10,000 items. His collection was purchased with funds from the Carnegie Corporation, and the items were donated to the New York Public Library. It became the foundation for the modern-day Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
He used his funds to travel the world and continued his collection efforts. Schomburg then served as a curator for Fisk University in 1931. He was able to expand the university’s collection but decided to relocate back to New York City. After his return to New York, Schomburg remained a curator, but he worked with his collection of items that were given to the New York Public Library.
Schomburg remained dedicated to championing the recognition of Black history and achievement for more than four decades. He died in New York on June 10, 1938, and his legacy has been commemorated with a collection of more than 10 million items that can be found in The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.