Scope and arrangement
The records of the Schomburg Center document the activities of the six individuals who managed the library, dating to its establishment by Ernestine Rose. The records are divided into the following series: General Correspondence, Reference Correspondence, Memoranda, Subject Files and Visitors' Registers. The majority of the material consists of subject files containing a considerable amount of correspondence.
The files have been divided into two periods. The first period, 1921-1948, begins with the administration of Ernestine Rose, who was the head librarian of the 135th Street Branch Library and is credited with establishing the collection, and also covers the leadership of Catherine Latimer, Arthur A. Schomburg, Lawrence D. Reddick and Dorothy Williams.
The second period, 1949-1979, covers the curatorship of Jean Blackwell Hutson and the acting curatorship of Wendell Wray (July 1964-September 1965). Wray served in this capacity while Jean Hutson was in Legon, Ghana working as the Assistant Librarian in charge of Africana at the Balme Library, at the invitation of President Kwame Nkrumah. These files are further subdivided into ten year spans: 1949-1959, 1960-1969 and 1970-1979.
Correspondence is separated into two subseries; General Correspondence, 1924-1979, and Reference Correspondence, 1933-1979. Both subseries consist of incoming and outgoing letters in which the letter sent to the curator precedes the response. The letters are arranged alphabetically by the correspondent's last name and chronologically within each name. In cases where the organization is more prominent than the individual correspondent, the letters are filed under the organization's name.
General Correspondence consists largely of letters of appreciation, invitations, donations and proposals. The Reference Correspondence is primarily letters requesting information about black history and culture and the resources of the Center. There are also several requests for the loan of art work or exhibition materials. The correspondence reflects both the uniqueness and the richness of the source material contained in the Schomburg Center..
The Memoranda, 1947-1978, are arranged in chronological order with the earliest date first. The memos are to and from such New York Public Library departments as the Business Manager's office, the Personnel Officer, Adult Services Office, Accounting Office, Photographic Services, Manhattan Borough Office, Office of the Branch Libraries and The Research Libraries Administrative Office. The memos address themselves to the internal problems particular to the Schomburg, such as the acquisition of material, staff meetings, building maintenance and security.
The Subject Files, 1921-1979, are arranged in alphabetical order by title. These reference files vary greatly, from Articles and Reports by the curator to Statistical Reports and Exhibition files. Some noteworthy files include those for Art, the Ira Aldridge Society, W. E. B. Du Bois Presentation, Martin Luther King, Jr. Center, National Urban League, North Manhattan Project and several folders of financial records.
Of particular note is the file on Harlem on my Mind, which deals with the controversial exhibition presented at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1969) that showed the life and achievements of the black residents of Harlem through photographs. The Harlem on my Mind files contain correspondence, memos, research material and press releases. A considerable amount of the correspondence is between Allon Schoener, the visual arts director of the exhibit, and Thomas Hoving, the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The complete list of subject file folders is enumerated in the Container List.
The Visitor's Register, 1952-1979, is a daily statistical record of all visitors to the Schomburg Center. It records the name, address, date and particular affiliation of the visitor such as school or business firm.
A selected list of correspondents is available.
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture records are arranged in four series: