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Picture of Arthur Alfonso Schomburg
Arthur Alfonso Schomburg

In response to a teacher's remark that blacks had no history, Arthur Schomburg began lifelong research on the subject and produced one of the world's most extensive collections of books, periodicals, photographs, and historical documents by and about blacks. Now housed in Harlem, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is recognized internationally as a leading institution in its field.

Born in Puerto Rico, Schomburg moved to New York at age 17 where he put his research skills to work at a law firm and subsequently began a long and successful career at Banker's Trust Company. He continued his passion for researching black history and culture, and in 1911 co-founded the Negro Society for Historical Research

Schomburg traveled to Europe and the Caribbean to collect historical facts and documents. He also uncovered many treasures in the United States, including a portrait of black astronomer and mathematician Benjamin Banneker, who helped lay out the blueprint for the development of Washington, D.C., and a manuscript by Lemuel Haynes, the black pastor of a white New England church. Schomburg, who authored several articles about the black experience, also compiled the first collection of Phillis Wheatley's poems.

In 1926 a $10,000 grant by the Carnegie Corporation enabled the New York Public Library to acquire Schomburg's extensive collection. In 1928 he received the William E. Harmon Award for distinguished achievement. Schomburg was named curator of the library's division of Negro Literature, History and Prints in 1932. After his death, the division was renamed the Schomburg Collection of Negro Literature and History. In 1972 it became the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a research division of the New York Public Library.

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