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Arturo Alfonso Schomburg
One of the Best Known Names among Black Scholars

El puertorriqueño Arturo Schomburg "El negro americano tiene que rehacer su pasado a fin de hacer su futuro. Aunque es correcto pensar que América es el país donde no es necesario tener un pasado, lo que para la nación es un lujo viene a ser una necesidad primordial para el negro. Una tradición de grupo debe compensarle por la persecución sufrida y el orgullo de raza servirla de antídoto contra el prejuicio. La historia tiene que devolverle lo que la esclavitud le arrebató."

-- A. Schomburg


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Esclavitud en Puerto Rico: origen, abolición



Arturo Schomburg Center

NE OF THE BEST KNOWN NAMES among black scholars throughout the world is Arturo Alfonso Schomburg. Less known, however, among both scholars and the general public, is the fact that Schomburg was Puerto Rican.

Born in San Juan on January 24, 1874, Schomburg received his early education in Puerto Rico and later attended college in the Danish West Indies. At college, a white student's comment that the black man had not accomplished anything and never would was vigorously protested by Schomburg, who riposted with information on what Puerto Ricans of African descent had done.

He cited particu larly the work of José Campeche, whose paintings had created a stir in art circles when they were exhibited in Rome, and of Rafael Cordero, an impoverished cigar maker who had founded a school and became a revered figure in the field of education in the island. [Photos: Schomburg Center, New York]
Schomburg Center: Exposition

At the age of 23, Schomburg moved to New York and continued amassing an extraordinarySchomburg Center: Exposition collection of books, manuscripts, etchings and memorabilia related to the history of the black people. In 1911, with John Edward Bruce and others, he organized the Negro Society for Historical Research. Known as the "detective of black history," this "rotund, florid, gay bibliophile" traveled to Seville and Granada in search of records pertaining to the slave trade, arid later visited France, Germany, England, and other countries, adding important items to his collection.

At the time of his death on June 10, 1938, the collection was already recognized as one of the world's most comprehensive compilations of black history, literature and art. Now called the AuditorioSchomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (103 West 135th Street, New York, NY 10030), the collection contains representative works of every major black author and other items pertaining to the history of the black people. And, among the Bruce papers, there are some 60 Schomburg letters which reflect, according to the Calendar of Manuscripts in the Schomburg Collection of Negro Literature, "the charming loquacity, the wide interests, and the indefatigable enthusiasm of this born bibliophile."

In 1926, the Carnegie Corporation purchased his collection, and presented it to the New York Public Library. Retired from his job in 1929, Schomburg was appointed curator of the collection in 1932.

Source: Fundación Puertorriqueña de las Humanidades (FPH)

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