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Arturo Alfonso Schomburg: Digging Up African History

Afro-Puerto Rican historian, writer and activist Arturo Alfonso Schomburg was a prominent figure during the Harlem Renaissance.

Schomburg collected literature, art and other artifacts pertaining to people of African descent. His collections were purchased by the New York Public Library.  

Today, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is one of the most prominent research libraries focused on the African diaspora.

As a child, Schomburg was told by one of his teachers that people of African descent had no history and no achievements. This teachers words inspired Schomburg to dedicate the rest of his life to discovering the important accomplishments of people of African descent.

Schomburg attended Instituto Popular where he studied commercial printing.  He later studied Africana Literature at St. Thomas College.

In 1891, Schomburg came to New York City and became an activist with the Revolutionary Committee of Puerto Rico. As an activist with this organization, Schomburg played an integral role in fighting for Puerto Rico and Cubas independence from Spain.

Living in Harlem, Schomburg coined the term afroborinqueno to celebrate his heritage as a Latino of African descent.

To support his family, Schomburg worked a variety of jobs such as teaching Spanish, working as a messenger and a clerk in a law firm.

However, his passion was identifying artifacts that disproved the notion that people of African descent had no history or achievements.

Schomburgs first article, Is Hayti Decadent? appeared in a 1904 issue of The Unique Advertiser.

By 1909, Schomburg wrote a profile on the poet and independence fighter, Gabriel de la Concepcion Valdez entitled Placido a Cuban Martyr.

In the early 1900s, African-American men such as Carter G. Woodson and W.E.B. Du Bois were encouraging others to learn African-American history. During this time, Schomburg established the Negro Society for Historical Research in 1911 with John Howard Bruce. The purpose of the Negro Society for Historical Research would be to support