8. The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Exterior of the Schomburg Center of the NYPL in Manhattan
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Image courtesy Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture/NYPL.

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, one of the New York Public Library’s research libraries, is a world-leading cultural institution devoted to the research, preservation, and exhibition of materials focused on African American culture. Located at 515 Malcolm X Boulevard, it currently serves as an archival repository for the history of people of African descent worldwide. The Schomburg Center’s collection is rooted in the work of a pioneering archivist, Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, a Puerto Rican author of African and German descent and curator of Black art and literature. 

Schomburg immigrated to New York in 1891 and quickly immersed himself in his new community by joining the Harlem Renaissance. After becoming inspired to disprove a former teacher who claimed that Black people had no history, heroes, or accomplishments, Schomburg determined that he would find and document the accomplishments of the African diaspora. He co-founded the Negro Society for Historical Research and served as president of the American Negro Academy in an effort to support anti-racist scholarly research. In 1926, the 135th Street branch of the New York Public Library purchased his collection of archival materials for $10,000 and appointed him curator. Today, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is one of the most well-established and comprehensive centers for research on people of African descent. Much of the collection documents Schomburg’s extensive involvement in the Harlem Renaissance. Another special feature of the library is the floor mosaic in the lobby. Langston Hughes’ ashes are interred beneath the symbolic artwork on the floor.