Arthur Alfonso Schomburg Article #612
Griot of the African Past and Teacher of Black Scholars
Ramla Bandele, Article Author
Although he was born in Puerto Rico on January 24, 1874, Arthur Schomburg was raised by his mother, Mary Joseph Schomburg, in her native Virgin Islands. He emigrated to New York in 1891. Schomburg is better known as the bibliophile whose vast collection of books on Africa, diaspora history and literature became the basis for the Arthur A. Schomburg Collection of Negro Literature and Art. Today, the Schomburg Collection is an integral part of the New York Public Library System.
Long before he embarked upon collecting, Schomburg was involved in Caribbean and other diaspora political movements. In the Virgin Islands and the United States, Schomburg helped organize groups to support both Cuban and Puerto Rican revolutionary efforts through the early 1900?s. He became a close friend and political ally of John Edward Bruce and with him founded or supported political, scholastic and masonic ventures. In the early 1900?s he was a member of the Loyal Order of the Sons of Africa, a secret society committed to pan-african political activism and was also involved in the earlier but similar Hamitic League (Contee, 1972, p. 18.) He was an effective fundr aiser for the Ethiopian War effort during the 1930?s as well (Sinnette, 1989.)
Also with Bruce, Schomburg established the Negro Society for Historical Research and was associated with the American Negro Academy. Schomburg provided the historical resources for many of the most famous political activists and historians of the early 20th century, including Bruce, Marcus Garvey, W.E. B. DuBois, and Carter G. Woodson. After he sold his collection to the New York Public Library, he became the bibliographer for the collection. It was in this capacity that he became a mentor to both Professor John Henrik Clarke and Dr. Kenneth H. Clark, both noted scholars in the later 20th century. Schomburg died on June 10, 1938.
DuBois, the NAACP, and the Pan-African Congress of 1919, Contee, Clarence G., , 24839
Marcus Garvey and UNIA Papers, Hill, Robert, University of California Press, 28857
Arthur Alfonso Schomburg: Black Bibliophile & Collector, Sinnette, Elinor Des Verney, Wayne State University Press and New York Public Library, 31049
Voices of a Black Nation, Vincent, Theodore, Rampart Press, 25205