This Day in History

Jan. 24, 1874: Arturo Alfonso Schomburg Born

Time Periods: Reconstruction Period: 1865 - 1876
Themes: African American, Education, Latinx

We need the historian and philosopher to give us with trenchant pen, the story of our forefathers, and let our soul and body, with phosphorescent light, brighten the chasm that separates us. We should cling to them just as blood is thicker than water.
―Arturo Schomburg

Arturo Alfonso Schomburg

Arturo Alfonso Schomburg

Born in Puerto Rico in 1874, Arturo Alfonso Schomburg (Jan. 24, 1874 – Jun. 8, 1938), bibliophile, collector, writer, and a key intellectual figure in the Harlem Renaissance, spent his life championing Black history.

Efrain Nieves wrote in Bien Hecho: Arturo Schomburg Gave Voice to Afro-Latinos:

During grade school one of Schomburg’s 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 migrated to New York City in 1891. Shortly after arriving, he co-founded Las Dos Antillas (The Two Islands), which sent aid for the independence cause in Puerto Rico and Cuba.

Moving to Harlem and later Brooklyn, Schomburg is best known for his worldwide collection of literature, documents, manuscripts, and art and artifacts from and about the Black world.

The New York Public Library (NYPL) purchased his vast collection in 1926. Today, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library is home to 10 million items.

To bring Schomburg’s story to the classroom, we highly recommend the children’s picture book by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Eric Velasquez.