The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture was designated a national historic landmark this week. The site in central Harlem was among 24 places the U.S. Department of the Interior gave the honor to on Wednesday.
The 91-year-old research library is named after black Puerto Rican Arturo Schomburg, a leading voice of the Harlem Renaissance who began collecting artifacts and documents on black history and culture during the 1920s.
“The idea and the person who promoted it, Arthur (Arturo) Alfonso Schomburg … an Afro-Latino immigrant and self-taught bibliophile, reflect the multicultural experience of America and the ideals that all Americans should have intellectual freedom and social equality,” reads part of a statement from the Interior Department.
The library currently holds 10 million items that are open to the public, including photographs, transcripts, rare books and moving images. It contains a signed first edition of a book of poems by Phillis Wheatley from the 1700s, the archival material of historians Melville J. Herskovits and John Henrik Clarke, telegrams from Langston Hughes and Tennessee Williams to Lorraine Hansberry on the opening night of A Raisin the Sun, Malcolm X’s Quran and Nat King Cole’s personal wedding album.
The library also engages the Harlem community and beyond in the present, including this weekend’s 5th Annual Black Comic Book Festival.
Other designees of historic landmark status (there are more than 2,500 such places across the U.S.) include the homes of civil rights activists Myrlie and Medgar Evers in Mississippi and the site of the 1970 Kent State University shootings in Ohio.