Papers reflecting Schomburg's endeavors as a writer and researcher, and collector and curator of books and manuscripts documenting black history and culture. Personal and professional papers, including correspondence and writings, and writings of others. Includes material relating to Schomburg's position as curator of the Schomburg Collection at the 135th St. branch of the New York Public Library, and to black literature, art, and history. Correspondents include John E. Bruce, Henrietta Buckmaster, W.E.B. Du Bois, Nicolás Guillén, W.C. Handy, Langston Hughes, Charles S. Johnson, James W. Johnson, Claude McKay, J.A. Rogers, Albert A. Smith, Sténio Vincent (President of Haiti), Walter White, and Carter G. Woodson. Other papers include programs, news clippings, invitations, announcements, and minutes of a variety of organizations, such as the New York Urban League, New York Public Library, Young Men's Christian Association, and several black cultural and educational groups. Also, transcriptions of eighteenth and nineteenth century historical documents pertaining to black history and culture.
Biographical/historical: Arthur (originally Arturo) Alfonso Schomburg (1874-1938) was a collector of books and manuscripts documenting black history and culture whose collection formed the basis for the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Schomburg moved to New York City in 1891, settling in Harlem and later, Brooklyn. As a young man, he was an active supporter of Cuban and Puerto Rican independence, cofounding the political club Las Dos Antillas; later, he was involved in several organizations devoted to promoting African American research and scholarship, including the Negro Society for Historical Research and the American Negro Academy. Drawing on his extensive collection of books and historical documents, Schomburg wrote articles on the history of the African diaspora for major black periodicals including The Crisis, Opportunity, Negro World, and The New York Amsterdam News. In 1926, Schomburg sold his collection to the New York Public Library. Then known as the Arthur A. Schomburg Collection of Negro Literature and Art, the collection was deposited at the 135th St. branch library, where it became part of the Division of Negro Literature, History, and Prints. Schomburg served as curator of this collection from 1932 until his death in 1938. See below for a timeline of Schomburg's life: 1874, January 24 Arturo Alfonso Schomburg is born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Carlos Federico Schomburg and Mary Joseph. 1891, April 17 Arrives in New York City. 1892 Becomes a Mason and joins the El Sol de Cuba Lodge #38, a Spanish-speaking lodge in New York. 1892-1896 Helps found and serves as secretary to Las Dos Antillas, a political club committed to the goal of Cuban and Puerto Rican independence. 1895 Marries Elizabeth Hatcher (d.1900) from Staunton, Virginia. They have three children: Maximo Gomez, Arturo Alfonso Jr. and Kingsley Guarionex. 1901-1906 Works as messenger and clerk in the law firm of Pryor, Mellis and Harris in New York City. 1902 Marries his second wife, Elizabeth Morrow Taylor from Virginia. They have two children: Reginald Stanfield and Nathaniel Jose. 1904 Publishes his first known article, Is Hayti Decadent? in The Unique Advertiser. 1906-1929 Works for Bankers Trust Company, eventually becoming supervisor of the Caribbean and Latin American Mail Section. 1909 Writes a short pamphlet, Placido, a Cuban Martyr, about the poet and independence fighter, Gabriel de la Concepcion Valdez. 1911 Helps organize and serves as secretary of the Negro Society for Historical Research. 1914 Marries for the third and last time to Elizabeth Green. They have three children: Fernando Alfonso, Dolores Maria and Carlos Placido. 1918 Elected Grand Secretary of the New York State Grand Lodge of the Prince Hall masons. 1920-1929 Elected President of the American Negro Academy. 1925 Schomburg's article The Negro Digs Up His Past is published in Alain Locke's issue of Survey Graphic and reprinted in The New Negro. 1926 The New York Public Library purchases Schomburg's collection of books, manuscripts, and prints with a $10,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation. The collection is deposited at the 135th Street Branch of the Library. 1926 Travels to Spain, France, Germany and England with funds from the sale of his collection, to conduct research and acquire new books and material. 1927 Awarded the William E. Harmon Award, consisting of a Bronze Medal and $100, for outstanding work in the field of Education. 1931-1932 Serves as curator of the Negro Collection at the library of Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee. 1932 Travels to Cuba where he meets Black Cuban artists and writers and acquires material for the collection. 1932-1938 Serves as curator of the Schomburg Collection of Negro Literature and Art, 135th Street Branch, The New York Public Library. 1938, June 10 Dies in Brooklyn. For fuller biographical treatments of Arthur Schomburg's life, see:
Arthur A. Schomburg: A Biographical Essay by Victoria Ortiz in The Legacy of Arthur A. Schomburg: A Celebration of the Past, A Vision for the Future Exhibition catalog. (New York: The New York Public Library, 1986).
Sinnette, Elinor Des Verney. Arthur Alfonso Schomburg: Black Bibliophile & Collector (The New York Public Library & Wayne State University Press, 1989).
Content: The Arthur Alfonso Schomburg Papers (1724-1938) reflect Schomburg's activities as researcher and writer, collector and curator. The collection consists of correspondence, published and unpublished writings, articles about Schomburg and his collection, subject and reference files, and material relating to his many speaking engagements and activities in the community. The bulk of the papers date from 1932 to his death in 1938. The material dating from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries consists of transcriptions and translations of historical documents, made during the 1930s.
The Correspondence is separated into three subseries: Letters to Schomburg, 1904-1938, Letters by Schomburg, 1914-1938, and Miscellaneous Correspondence, 1909-1938. The first two subseries are arranged alphabetically by the correspondent's name or affiliation. The third subseries is subdivided by type, such as Invitations, Greeting Cards, and Miscellaneous Letters. Schomburg's correspondents included a number of prominent people in the fields of arts and letters, politics and civil rights, such as John E. Bruce, Henrietta Buckmaster, W.E.B. Du Bois, W.C. Handy, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, J.A. Rogers, The Honorable Sténio Vincent (President of Haiti), Walter White, Carter G. Woodson, Charles S. Johnson, Nancy Cunard, Albert Smith, and fellow collectors and bibliophiles William C. Bolivar, Henry Slaughter and Arthur Spingarn. The letters relate to Schomburg's position as curator at the 135th St. library, as well as to his intellectual interests and personal life.
The Professional and Literary Activities series illustrates the broad scope of Schomburg's interests. Included in this series are typescripts and published articles written by Schomburg, although authorship of the manuscripts is not always clear as they are frequently unsigned. There are also articles about Schomburg's activities and the Schomburg Collection, as well as invitations, announcements and programs of events Schomburg participated in. Included in this section are minutes and reports for the Citizens Committee of the 135th Street Branch Library and the New York Urban League, the two organizations that consistently worked with Schomburg and Ernestine Rose, the branch librarian, to benefit the branch in general, and the Schomburg Collection in particular.
The Subject and Reference File consists of a variety of material, including reference notes, transcriptions of articles from newspapers, transcriptions and translations of speeches, letters, and essays about historical figures and events, biographical essays, and manuscripts by other authors.
Extent: .75 linear feet (17 boxes, 12 microfilm reels)