Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, also known as Arthur Schomburg, was a meticulous historian and important Harlem Renaissance figure. During his career, he was referred to as the “Sherlock Holmes of Black History” due to his exhaustive research on Africa and the diaspora.
Schomburg was born Jan. 24. 1874 to a Black mother from the Virgin Islands and a German father who lived in Puerto Rico. As a boy, Schomburg was told by a teacher that Black history was a farce, which set him on a path early on to prove that doubter wrong.
In 1871, Schomburg moved to Harlem, New York and was an active member of the fight for Cuba and Puerto Rico’s independence. When his home country became part of the United States, Schomburg embraced the African-American community that he was now a part of. This set him on a path of serious study of the connection Black Americans had with Africa.
In 1911, Schomburg founded the Negro Society for Historical Research, and in 1922, he was named president of The American Negro Academy. As a collector and researcher of African art, Schomburg amassed a massive collection which was put on display by the New York Public Library’s Division of Negro Literature, History and Prints in 1926. He became the department’s curator and remained so until his death in 1932.
Today, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library boasts more than 10 million items connected to Africa and beyond.
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