Arthur Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

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Arthur Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is a research library and archive for information on people of African descent worldwide. Located in the Harlem section of Manhattan, it is a part of the New York Public Library and is open to both scholars and other visitors.

The Center is located at 515 Malcolm X Boulevard with its entrance at 103 West 135th Street. It contains art, manuscripts, films, books and photographs. As of early 2010, the institution received 120,000 visitors a year. In addition to research services, the center hosts readings, theater and other types of performances.

In April 2010, Howard Dodson, the director since 1984, announced he would retire in early 2011. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, a professor of history at the Indiana University, and great-grandson of Elijah Muhammad was announced as Dodson's replacement.


The center's collection includes a rare recording of a speech by Marcus Garvey, documents signed by Toussaint L'Ouverture and a signed, first edition of a book of poems by Phillis Wheatley. The center contains collections of archival material of Melville J. Herskovits, John Henrick Clarke, Lorraine Hansberry, Malcolm X and Nat King Cole.


According to the Schomburg Center's website, "The Center's collections first won international acclaim in 1926 when the personal collection of the distinguished Puerto Rican-born Black scholar and bibliophile, Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, was added to the Division of Negro Literature, History and Prints of the 135th Street Branch of The New York Public Library." Schomburg was curator of the collection from 1932 to his death in 1938. According to Dodson, Schomburg wanted to demonstrate through the collection that black people had a rich history and culture. In 1940 the collection was renamed in Schomburg's honor, and it continued growing afterward. In 1972 the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture was designated as one of New York Public Library's official research libraries.

In 1984, Dodson became the director. During his time as head of the institution, as of 2010, the Schomburg's collection grew from 5 million to 10 million items, and the center acquired the collections of Herskovits, John Henrick Clarke, Hansberry, Malcolm X and Nat King Cole. A scholars-in-residence program started at the center in 1986. In 2000, the Schomburg Center held an exhibition titled "Lest We Forget: The Triumph Over Slavery", which later went on tour around the world for more than a decade under the sponsorship of Unesco's Slave Route Project. The center held an exhibition of letters, photographs and other material related to Malcolm X in 2005. In 2007, the building was renovated and expanded in an $11 million project. From 1984 to 2010, attendance grew threefold, to 120,000 visitors a year. Dodson said that when he first became the director, the Schomburg Center was known mostly to scholars but had become more of a cultural center visited by tourists, schoolchildren and others.

For eight years in the 2001-2010 decade, the center operated a 25-week "Junior Scholars" program for 11- to 17-year-olds in which they learned about black culture and history and met accomplished people. The program ended due to lack of funds.