Save The Schomburg

A mainstay of Harlem history is in danger of being dismantled. The collection of materials at the Schomburg Center for Research and Black Culture may be partitioned and sent to various branches of the New York Public Library. This in addition to the possibility of the Center’s collections being sent off to another research library should be an issue of great concern for the Harlem community in particular, and those in the African Diaspora in general. There is even talk of renaming the facility.

The Schomburg is a world reknown research library, and to treat its collection like its of little consequence is a mistake. Originally created in 1926, the Center has been a beacon for scholars, activists, and historians studying and gathering information. With director Howard Dodson slated to leave in February of 2011, the future of the research library is very much in jeopardy.

It should also be widely known that Henry Louis Gates, who has some highly questionable notions about African history, will be co-chairing the search committee for the new curator of The Schomburg. Given his tendency to downplay the facts of history in regards to the African Slave Trade, there is little confidence in Gates willingness to preserve the cultural heritage that the Center has represented for over 80 years. As America’s foremost post-racial scholar, Henry Louis Gates does not share the concerns of the residents of Harlem for the retention of its Black culture and history.

Its apparent that the community of New York City will have to become involved in this matter to ensure that the Schomburg will not be on the chopping block.. I urge that those who are in favor of protecting the Center sign the CEMOTAP petition here We in the Harlem community can not allow this to happen. People come from all over the world to access this library. It would be a tragedy if we allow the life work of Arturo A. Schomburg to be undermined by those who do not have the best interests of our people in mind.

Marc W. Polite

Schomburg Regular

Note: This information comes from last week’s Amsterdam News

Update: 7.18.10- For an Update on the Save the Schomburg campaign, click here

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44 comments on “Save The Schomburg
  1. This is an important institution for all Americans…but, especially for African, Caribbean,Latino, etc people..

  2. I agree that Henry Louis Gates is an unfortunate choice to chair this committee. Save the Schomburg, indeed!

  3. If signing a petitition will help to save this historical wealth of information site, then we must forward this notice to as many individuals as possible.

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  5. Please! do not let this happen. We need the Schomburg Center in Harlem, this institution is very important for the Afro-American.

  6. Is this because of the general funding cuts to the NYPL library system? The whole thing is just a damn shame–especially the prospect of losing such an important institution as the Schomberg.

  7. While the sentiments to preserve the Schomburg are admirable, these rumors about its demise are entirely unsubstantiated. The Amsterdam News story linked offers no evidence supporting this claim (other than reporter Boyd’s implied question and Congressman Rangel’s reply), quotes no one from the New York Public Library or the Schomburg itself, and cites no relevant budgetary figures. The original publisher’s editorial of the same date (http://www.amsterdamnews.com/articles/2010/06/17/opinion/editorials/doc4c1a53aa8999d131239741.txt) traffics in the same idle speculation about the institution’s future: “Many people believe that the Schomburg collection will be cut up and distributed among the NYC branches of the library or sent to another research library outside the Black community.” Again, where is the evidence for this? As a practical matter, having just fundraised for and completed a multi-million dollar renovation to the Center, how would breaking up the Schomburg collections and dispersing them benefit the NYPL? And as a matter of politics and public-relations, what would be the library’s motivation for doing this?

    The NYPL system is obviously facing major budgetary shortfalls. Howard Dodson is retiring as Schomburg director after a long and highly successful tenure at the helm. That community members and researchers are anxious about the Center’s future is thus understandable. However, we do ourselves — and the institution — no service by raising false alarm. If there is a real and documented “threat” to the Center and its collections, that’s one thing. But perpetuating and responding to rumors and innuendo seems to me to be energy not well spent.

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  9. OK, who was the rocket scientist that came up with this idiocy? This is a slap in the face of all those who went before us and died so we could have a library of this stature in our ‘hood. We cannot let this happen. This country was (and still is) built on the souls and back of Black people. If ever there was a time for us to stand united, it is now.

  10. Isn’t it bad enough that African-Americans have had their cultures of origin taken from them, do they have to sit idly by while an insensitive government attmpts to deal them yet another blow?

  11. If this is true, what can we do to stop it? It is like everytime you turn around, there is yet another story of oppression, exploitation and suppression..

  12. It’s not fair to close the Schomburg everyone is entitled to be able to go and learn about their culture. children need to learn about their culture and where they come from!

  13. I’m signing save the Scomburg/Polite Society because it is part of our history and our children and their children needs a place that have historic information on black history. Research is more easily accessible and available. Though I don’t live in NY anymore The Schomburg was helpful to me when I was in school. P don’t close teh Scomburg.

  14. I would like to save the Shomburg/Polite Society. It is very important for our community and the children of the future. We as a community have a lot of things to be thankful for. Let’s keep it alive.

  15. Please do not dismantle the Schomburg. Education is a right. It is also the surest route out of poverty for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. Libraries provide access to information and knowledge. The Schomburg is beacon to many in Harlem

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  17. Thank you to everyone for your comments and concerns. It is great to know that so many people care about the future of the Schomburg.

    -Marc

  18. The Black community of Harlem has strived for decades to maintain its unique place in New York and American society, not to mention its impact on the culture of this country and this recent development is simply another reminder of how minimized our history becomes when economics are an issue. As a landmark building (if it hasn’t been designated, it should be) I remember doing research on a paper as a young man in the early 70’s and losing myself in the books, magazines and artifacts in the building, moving about with a wonderful sense of pride and fulfillment. It would be a shame to deprive future Black and Hispanic youth the same opportunity to feel pride about their culture and learn how important their history and culture is to the entire world.

  19. The Shomburg ia an icon very much needed in this Country, State and City and more so , to remainat it’s present location, in HARLEM. It houses many papers and memorabilia on the history of mainly Black and Hispanic communities, but also recent articles of importance. It is also the depository of the life of many institutions of importance to the life and future of these communities. If this information is true then “we the people” must stop it from happening. Oue elected officials, Community Leaders, Activists and any and all concerned persons must unite and act. Even if it is not true now and just in case this is something on some peoples minds, put them on notice, by our actions now, “don’t even think about it.” Let’s get it started.

  20. Let’s all get onboard before it is to late & and we will be saying I did’t belived this could have happened.

  21. I will join my neighbors in signing the CEMOTAP petition on the outside chance that the Schomburg Center is in danger of being dismantled. However, I am not convinced that there is an imminent threat to the Schomburg’s continued existence. I have little reason to trust the establishment to continue preserving the historic wonders of the Schomburg Center. A sudden withdrawal of support for the center and a change of venue for its collections would come as no surprise – the powers that be in the city are definitely fickle and often speak with a ‘forked tongue.’ I don’t believe that library officials would dare risk the wrath of the Harlem community and other supporters of the Schomburg in the interest of fiscal austerity – but you never know! Despite the prevailing concerns about Professor Henry Louis Gates, I believe him to be a staunch advocate for the preservation of African American culture – I doubt that he would collude with corporate library ‘suits’ to deprive our community of one of its most prized treasures. I have great respect for Howard Dodson’s stellar leadership of the Schomburg – he has been instrumental in creating a vibrant cultural institution that connects with people from throughout the city, around the country and across the globe. On a personal level, in my role as a former administrator at a local major nonprofit, I found Mr. Dodson to be a rigid bureaucrat who is bloated with his own sense of self-importance. I dare say that I look forward to the appointment of a younger, more progressive steward of the center. Mr. Dodson’s time has come and gone – and he has made the best of it. I am glad to see Harlemites and others coming together to support a worthwhile cause – just in case it’s needed.

  22. This Historical Literary Landmark has been a integral part of Black History for years
    There is no way of replacing it and there must be a way to save it for future Kids.
    I’ve never been one for Politics especially when the Champions of Civil Rights were slain.
    Unfortunately I must say that the U.S is one of the biggest hypocrites in World History.
    Today’s Society gives you less of everything but charges you more, very sad indeed 4 all

  23. We must save the Schomburg! This situation is crucial and must be addressed forthwith……THE SCHOMBURG MUST BE SAVED FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS!

  24. A global rallying call must be made to KEEP THE SCHOMBURG IN TACT.
    We must do everything possible to keep the Schomburg in one place… preferably in Harlem!

  25. In response to the recent speculation about a rumored dismantling of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library reaffirms its commitment to the Schomburg. As Library President Paul LeClerc has stated in a recent Amsterdam News op-ed, “We welcome this opportunity to share with you the commitment from NYPL that the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is here to stay. There has never been any thought whatsoever of moving the Schomburg. Harlem is its home, and it is where the Schomburg is going to be forever.”

    Howard Dodson, in a recent statement available on the Schomburg website (http://www.nypl.org/sites/default/files/schomburg_safe_in_harlem.pdf), responds to the speculation: “What has moved me the most about the flurry of emails, blogs, and news stories that have appeared in print and electronic media has been the deep, passionate concerns that so many have expressed about the future of the Schomburg Center. This has, indeed, been heartening because it is clear evidence that so many of you care deeply about the Center’s future and are prepared to support, defend and protect it. What has troubled me is that unfortunately, some of the concerns that motivated these expressions of commitment are simply not true, not based on fact. The most disturbing of the false rumors that are circulating and creating so much anxiety is the notion that The New York Public Library is planning to break up the Schomburg Center’s collection and disburse them throughout its branch libraries. No proposal to do such a mindless and egregious thing has ever been proposed during my 25-plus year history here that I am aware of.”

    NYPL remains fully dedicated to the invaluable mission and unparalleled place held by the Schomburg Center for so many communities, scholars, students, and more. The Center and its rich and unique collections will continue to flourish indefinitely into the future.

    An important way to support the Schomburg Center is to visit it — in person and online. Invite your friends and your family and come to see the current exhibition: What’s Up @ the Schomburg?, which showcases treasures from the collections and celebrates the people, programs, and services of the Schomburg.

    The public is also invited to attend the Library’s “What’s Up @ the Schomburg: A Community Conversation,” a forum that will be held in the Langston Hughes Auditorium on Thursday, July 29, 2010 from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m.

    Thank you for your passion and for your continued support of the Schomburg.

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