schomburg center


James Baldwin’s hidden papers have a new home in black America’s premier library

  • James Baldwin was one of the most prolific writers in black history, but there is plenty about his work that the world still doesn’t know.At the time of his death in 1987, Baldwin had written nearly two dozen works of fiction, nonfiction and poetry, some of which would be published posthumously. 
  • But he was also black and gay at a time when both were professionally taboo, so there’s a lot about his life that only lives on in his private letters that his family has held onto for three decades.
  • Some of those letters are now in possession of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, black America’s premier library, thanks to Baldwin’s estate. Read more. (4/13/2017 2:55 PM)

W. E. B. Du Bois, the African-American thinker and activist whose writings influenced generations of freedom fighters, was born on February 23 in 1868, 149 years ago. While nearly a century and a half has passed since Du Bois’ birth, many of his writings still feel as relevant today as they did in the early 20th century. Here are some quotes from Du Bois, coupled with our images of him from the Photographs and Prints Division at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

What is the legacy of Jim Crow? On April 15, a trio of leading social-justice activists discuss the laws in conjunction with the exhibition One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series and Other Visions of the Great Movement North. The event features Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Director, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; Sherrilyn Ifill, President, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; and Cornell Brooks, President and CEO, NAACP. 

[Jacob Lawrence. The Migration Series. 1940-41. Panel 22: “Another of the social causes of the migrants’ leaving was that at times they did not feel safe, or it was not the best thing to be found on the streets late at night. They were arrested on the slightest provocation.” Casein tempera on hardboard, 18 x 12″ (45.7 x 30.5 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Mrs. David M. Levy. © 2015 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Digital image © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY]

First day of Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa: Umoja (Unity). To strive for a principled & harmonious togetherness in the family, community, and world Afro-Community #kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is a week-long holiday (Dec 26th-31st) created in 1966 to unite people in study of African philosophies and traditions, and offer a cultural counterpart to the political goals of the time. Kwanzaa was the vision of Dr. Maulana Karenga (current chair of the Africana Studies Department at California State University, Long Beach), and he describes it as “an ancient and living cultural tradition which reflects the best of African thought and practice.” It was first celebrated among members of the burgeoning Black Power movement and initially contended that Christianity was a White religion that Blacks should shun, but has since evolved into a cultural holiday rather than a religious one. The name derives from the Swahili phrase, “first fruits of harvest,” highlighting the Pan-African focus on the East African language of Swahili (despite the fact that East Africa was not involved in the Atlantic Slave Trade). Kwanzaa is based on Seven Principles (the Nguzo Saba): Umoja (unity); Kujichagulia (self-determination); Ujima (collective responsibility); Ujamaa (cooperative economics); Nia (purpose); Kuumba (creativity), and Imani (faith). According to Dr. Karenga, it “brings a cultural message which speaks to the best of what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense.”

For this week’s episode of the New York Public Library Podcast, we highlight discussions presented by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture on two documentaries about icons Maya Angelou and John Lewis. To talk about American Masters - And Still I Rise, a film about the Pulitzer-nominated Dr. Angelou, Elizabeth Alexander, Director of Creativity and Free Expression at the Ford Foundation; Rita Coburn Whack, co-director and co-producer of Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise; Louis Gossett, Jr., Academy Award-winning actor; and Colin Johnson, Co-Founder and Principal of Caged Bird Legacy joined Director of the Schomburg Center, Kevin Young. Get in the Way: The Journey of John Lewis is a documentary film about Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights icon and the winner of the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature for March: Book Three. It is discussed by Arva Rice, President and CEO of the New York Urban League; activist and advocate Phil Pierre; and Ahmad Greene, a core member of the Black Lives Matter Movement. In this week’s episode, we’re proud to present conversation around generations of activism with some of our nation’s most inspiring freedom fighters.

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Black Comic Book Festival

Good morning, good afternoon, good evening! Whenever you might be reading this post, welcome!

Over this weekend on Friday and Saturday January the13th and 14th was the Fifth Annual Black Comic Book Festival held at the Schomburg for Research in Black Culture.

Admittedly, this was my first visit to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. However, it will most definitely not be my last. Something I do plan on rectifying in the near future, a  point made more poignant as I write this on the Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. (Not only as a historian but as an inquisitive Black person living in NYC)

A short history: The Black Comic Book Festival is a convention held yearly at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, New York. Co-founded in 2012 by Deirdre Hollman, Jerry Craft, Jerry Craft, John Jennings and Jonathan Gayles. Black Comic Book Fest celebrates Black artists and writes in the comic book industry.

The Black Comic Book Festival was pretty dope, and very fulfilling! As an expanded effort on my part to attend more conventions other than Comic Con it’s nice to go check out other Conventions as they grow and expand. Not to mention have the time to speak to writers and artists in a more casual (not to mention less stressful) environment. A sentiment I think many a fellow nerd can identify with when attending heavily crowded and populated events/conventions.

Earlier last year, I took the opportunity to check out the Women in Comics Convention (WinCon) held at the New York Public Library’s Bronx Library Center, founded by Regine Sawyer (author of Eating Vampires) through her organization Women in Comics. Which will be coming up soon on March 25th if interested in going. Take the time to check it out if you have the chance!

I spoke to Regine Sawyer briefly, much to my surprise she remembered me from Women in Comics Con last year. Which in and of itself was delightful and refreshing I might add.

Maia Crown Williams was also in attendance representing MECCA Con (Midwest Ethnic Convention for Comics and Art) and Bronx Heroes as well!

A major shout-out to many of the artists and writers as well as teams that put out some spectacular work in the last couple years now: BLACK (Kwanza Osajyefo, Tim Smith, Jamal Igle), Tuskegee Heirs (Marcus Williams, Greg Burnham), E.X.O. (Roye Okupe), Ajala (Robert Garrett, N. Steven Harris), Brother Man (Dawud Anyabwile, Guy A. Sims, Brian McGee), Shaft (David F. Walker).

Overall, Black Comic Book Fest was a blast and thoroughly enjoyable. If you’ve read down to this point or just skipped down for a TL;DR I’d definitely suggest checking it out next year. If you have the time on March 25th, check out Women in Comics as well.

Olivette Miller, celebrated “swing” harpist of the 1940s, was born 101 years ago today (February 2, 1914) in Illinois. Here parents were Bessie Oliver Miller, a 1900’s chorus girl and the venerable actor, comedian, writer and producer Flournoy Miller, who co-wrote and produced the groundbreaking Broadway musical “Shuffle Along.” Raised on Harlem’s famous Striver’s Row, Ms. Miller graduated from East Greenwich Academy, a private Methodist boarding school in Rhode Island in 1931, and went on to study music in Paris and at Juilliard. She originally planned to play concert halls but after being “bitten by the night club bug” she turned to more popular music. Ms. Miller’s stunning beauty and colorful love-life kept her in the newspapers almost as much as her performances around the country and the world. She performed with both Lena Horne and a young not-yet-a-superstar Dorothy Dandridge in the 1940s, top notch night clubs in Hollywood, Chicago and New York, and made a few appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in the 1960s. I’m still trying to pin it down, but by my count, she was married at least six times. The Chicago Defender reported her impending divorce from her first husband, Channing Price in November 1934 and in October 1939, the New York Amsterdam News reported that Ms. Miller, who had married a musician named Oett Mallard two years earlier, gave birth to their son, Alvin Miller Mallard, on October 1, 1939 in Denver, Colorado. She was married to the dancer Freddie Gordon in the 1940s and in the 1950s to the comedian Bert Gibson and performed and toured with him across the country. In the 1970s, when she sued Flip Wilson for copyright infringement over a sketch he did on his show that Ms. Miller claimed was lifted from her father’s work in “Shuffle Along,” her name ws Olivette Miller Darby. By the early 1990s, she had a bit part as a maid in the film “A Rage in Harlem” and was billed as Olivette Miller Briggs, due to her marriage to the dancer Bunny Briggs. Ms. Miller died on April 27, 2003 at the age of 89. Photo: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library.

On this date, August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. made his “I Have A Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial during the Great March on Washington, one of the biggest political rallies with more than 200,000 Americans. The march brought to attention the political and social struggles of African Americans with speeches and performances from John Lewis, Josephine Baker, Mahalia Jackson, Bob Dylan and many others as well. This event is recognized as a pivotal moment in the American Civil Rights Movement.

Title: Jogar Capoëra, ou danse de la guerre.

Description: Lithograph of Afro-Brazilians performing capoeira dance*. From the Schomburg Photographs and Prints Division (Print Collection - South America - Brazil).

Reference: SCPR 07.23.067

Source: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library

Note: danse de la guerre literally translates (from French) as “war dance”.

* This is incorrect. Capoeira is not a dance. It is a martial art that was carefully developed and designed specifically to look like a dance because it was illegal for slaves to learn how to fight. 

In true embodiment of the Brazilian spirit, slaves (as I’ve explained before) crafted a fighting style that uses music and in which students do not make contact with each other (except for advanced acrobatic moves that require using another person as a springboard or something of the sort) in order to learn how to fight without getting in trouble.

Just digitized: the Schomburg’s collection of WPA Photographs. This includes stills from  Federal Theatre Project productions (such as Macbeth, The Swing Mikado, and Haiti), artists and their work under the auspices of the Federal Art Project, and children’s and adults’ music classes under the Federal Music Project, among others.