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New York Public Library : Black Culture, History and Literature

A 92 Library Branch system that services Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, plus anyone who lives, works or goes to school in New York State.

Black Culture, History and Literature


Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library is one of the World's leading cultural institutions devoted to the research, preservation and exhibition of materials focused on African American, African Diaspora and African experiences, As a research division of the New York Public Library, the Schomburg Center features diverse programming and collections spanning over 11 million items that illuminate the richness of global Black history, arts and culture. 

  • Art and Artifacts Division - collects, documents, preserves and interprets art and artifacts by and about peoples of African heritage throughout the world. Fine and applied art and material culture objects from the seventeenth century to the present are collected, with emphasis on the visual arts of the twentieth century in the United States and Africa. 
  • Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division holds and provides access to books, serials and microforms containing information by and about people of African descent throughout the world, concentrating on the humanties, social sciences and the arts. Geographically, the collection emphasizes the Americas, the Caribbean and Sub-Saharan Africa. 
  • Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division collects, preserves, and makes available for research purposes rare, unique and primary materials that document the history and culture of people of African descent throughout the world, with a concentration on the Americas
  • Moving Image and Recorded Sound Division (MIRS) documents the experience of peoples of African descent, as they have been captured via audiovisual technology. The MIRS Division collections encompasses a variety of formats including motion picture film (released prints and outtakes), video recordings, and music and spoken art recording in several formats. 
  • Photographs and Print Division contains both documentary and fine art photographs, which document the history and culture of people of African descent worldwide as well as the work of photographers of African descent. The collection of over 300,000 images ranges from mid-eighteeth century graphics to contemporary documentary and art photography; all of the major photographic processes are represented. 

The Schomburg Center produces the "Black Liberation Reading List of Black authors.

The History of the Schomburg Center for Research 


Portrait of Arthur Alfonso Schomburg, bibliophile" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1900 - 1935.

The Division of Negro Literature, History and Prints—the forerunner to today’s Schomburg Center—opened in 1925 as a special collection of the 135th Street Branch Library to meet the needs of a changing community. The Division first won international acclaim in 1926, when the personal collection of the distinguished Puerto Rican-born Black scholar and bibliophile, Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, was added.

Schomburg's collection included more than 5,000 books; 3,000 manuscripts; 2,000 etchings and paintings; and several thousand pamphlets.  Schomburg served as curator of the Division from 1932 until his death in 1938.

In 1940, the Division was renamed the Schomburg Collection of Negro Literature, History and Prints in honor of its founder. In 1972, the Schomburg Collection was designated as one of The Research Libraries of The New York Public Library and became the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

The expansion of the Schomburg Center in 1991 created spaces for exhibition galleries; the renovated American Negro Theatre; and the 340-seat Langston Hughes Auditorium, in which concerts, forums, lectures, performances, and other special events have taken place. Today, the Schomburg Center contains over 11 million items and provides services and programs for constituents from the United States and abroad.


Brooklyn Public Library resources include: 

  • African American Experience a collection of scholarly articles and primary source doucments on African American History and Culture. Includes books, speeches, letters, photographs, illustrations and audio clips
  • Black Short Fiction and Forklore: Collects African and African American short stories and folktales published in more than 15 countries from the mid 1900's to present. Includes digitized runs of select literary magazines and black-owned journals and newspapers 
  • Black Thought & Culture: Collects published works by leading African American writers, spanning the 1700's to the present. Includes books, interviews, journal articles, essays, pamplets & letters
  • Black Women Writers: Collects fiction, poetry and essays by black women published in Africa & the Americas from the 1700's to the present 


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Queens Public Library resources include: 

  • Black Heritage Reference Center located at the Langston Hughes Community Library & Cultural Center. The Center houses NYC's largest circulating Black Heritage reading collection servicing Queens County and beyond with over 40,000 volumes of material related to Black Culture
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