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Posts from Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

A Trip Down Memory Lane: The Lasting Influence of Illmatic

Tomorrow marks the 20th anniversary of Nas’s debut album, Illmatic. On Wednesday, I had the privilege to attend the opening of the Tribeca Film Festival to watch my friend and former colleague Erik Parker’s documentary, Time Is Illmatic. Parker’s film examines Nas’s groundbreaking album because it symbolizes the shift of hip-hop’s nerve center and lyrics in 1994. Read More ›

Lorraine Hansberry: Dreamer Supreme

The Lorraine Hansberry Collection at the Schomburg Center For Research In Black Culture is a remarkably thorough record of family, personal, and professional papers, letters, manuscripts and photographs documenting her entire life as an artist and activist.Read More ›

12 Years a Slave. What About 15 Years in a Cave?

We’ll know in one month if Steve McQueen’s film gets an Oscar. But one thing is sure: the heretofore largely unfamiliar Solomon Northup has become a household name.Read More ›

August Wilson's How I Learned What I Learned

Frederick August Kittle Jr. loved libraries. That's a point clearly made in How I Learned What I Learned, August Wilson's autobiographical play at the Signature Center, directed by Todd Kreidler, starring Ruben Santiago Hudson. Freddie Kittle Jr. preferred libraries to Pittsburgh schools which were not an easy way for him to learn. He also loved his mother, Daisy Wilson, and he loved people, particularly black people.

How I Learned What I Learned is a memoir 

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My Mandela Moments

I learned of Nelson Mandela’s passing while waiting for my delayed flight at Atlanta Airport. I thought how much his painful and extraordinary life had exposed the terrible danger that faced those who fought for the rights, the dignity and the freedom of people of African origin or descent. That despairing reality was made all the more vivid because I was coming back to New York after several days spent with Kathleen Cleaver, immersed in documents and photographs from the Black 

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ON THE AIR: Music Landmarks in NYC - Yankee Doodle to Jay-Z

Pearl Street Native/Indigenous

AIR is a Native American and ancient colloquialism for music and voice, as heard upon the earth. Musicians and singers performed at festivals at sacred places like Pearl Street, where shells mounded for centuries, in Lenape tradition, to honor and "give thanks" for the sun, moon, stars, rain, wind and all elements of the air.

New Amsterdam. ca. 1625 - People arrived to the various ceremonies and festivals along the East River shoreline via rafts, canoes and by walking down the main island trail (widened for vehicles in the 

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The Americas' First Muslims

This week, 1.2 billion Muslims will celebrate Eid-al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, or Tabaski as it is known in West Africa. Very few among them will have a thought for the hundreds of thousands of enslaved West Africans who, during almost four centuries, practiced Islam in the Americas. Although they left significant marks of their faith, cultures, and traditions, the Africans who first brought Islam to these shores have been mostly forgotten.Read More ›

Música Soul: The Soundtrack of the Black Power Movement in Brazil

"If we had said 'Negro power' nobody would get scared. Everybody would support it. If we said power for colored people, everybody would be for that, but it is the word 'black' that bothers people in this country, and that's their problem, not mine." —Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) at UC Berkeley, 1966

Stokely Carmichael by Lynn B. PadweBlack Rio Scene by Almir VeigaJames Brown released "I'm Black and I'm Proud" during the height of the Black Power Movement in the United States in 1968. Brown's in-your-face approach to racial pride resonated 

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Asia's Africans

May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. What better time to discover or learn more about Afro-Asians? As our groundbreaking exhibition Africans in India shows, some became navy commanders, army generals, and founders of dynasties. In Ahmedabad, in the Indian state of Gujarat, they left an impressive architectural legacy. Today, 

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Africans in India: From Slaves to Generals and Rulers

Generals, commanders, admirals, prime ministers, and rulers, East Africans greatly distinguished themselves in India. They wrote a story unparalleled in the rest of the world — that of enslaved Africans attaining the pinnacle of military and political authority not only in a foreign country but also on another continent. Come discover their extraordinary story in a groundbreaking exhibition at the Schomburg Center — on view from February 1 to July 6 — and on March 21, join Dr. Faeeza Jasdanwalla, a descendant of the African dynasty of Janjira for a conversation on this 

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Django Unchained: Lorraine Hansberry Unbridled

Angelic stranger, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) grants freedom to hapless Texas slave Django (Jamie Foxx). Schultz, a kindly German dentist-turned-bounty hunter, provides Django with employment, trusting friendship and his first handgun. Django is reborn as a slave-turned-bounty hunter, becoming a vengeful black American superman on a dangerous and deadly mission to free his lovely German-educated wife, Broomhilda von Shaft (Kerry Washington), from a Mississippi cotton plantation.

Django Unchained, directed by

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Manhattan Woman and 20,000 Slaves

Genealogical Ties That Bind.

African Burial Ground Map OverlayWe met at the Chambers Street IRT subway station — Lynn Jencks, descendant of an early Dutch family, and me, descendant of Lenape, Dutch and Africans. About 400 years ago, Dutch and enslaved Africans arrived into the ancient Algonquian wilderness that became New York City. Lynn, who lives in Illinois, had never been to the property owned by her ancestors and worked upon by slaves.

"Christopher guided me out of the subway and we emerged into the crisp clear December 

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Lincoln: The Untold Story

As Hollywood films about the passage of the 13th Amendment go, Lincoln is certainly the best one ever made! There really aren't any others. I saw it with my sons, sixth and 12th graders in Brooklyn public schools. They loved the film and saw it as an exciting movie about American history. Would they recommend it to other kids, I asked. "Yes," they agreed, "Lincoln is a movie that all students should see."

I agree Lincoln is a 

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Clicks to the Black World

Digital Schomburg's online exhibitions on various aspects of the black experience have truly become a global phenomenon. They are attracting visitors from all over the world. From Argentina to Zimbabwe and Montenegro and the Maldives in between. What do they know that perhaps you don't?

In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience remains the most visited curated exhibition of The New York Public Library. With a few clicks, visitors from 206 countries and territories, including Kazakhstan, Tonga, Suriname, Mongolia and Malawi, 

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Reclaiming My West Indian Roots, with Poetry

As a young girl growing up in Jamaica — and later in Brooklyn, NY — I often heard the poetry of Louise Bennett (Jamaicans affectionately call her "Miss Lou") permeate the air. One of my earliest recollections of Miss Lou’s lyricism was hearing the term mout amassi (big mouth). The term comes from the title of one of her most popular poems about a young lady, Liza, who loves to gossip and chat.

To be called a "mout amassi" 

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A Poem A Day

April is National Poetry Month, and I promised myself to read a poem a day. Some poets of the black experience immediately came to mind: Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Claude McKay, Sonia Sanchez, Audrey Lorde, to name a few. But then I decided to venture unto new territory and immerse myself into recent works.

I selected four great poets — and distinguished scholars training new generations — who published collections in 2010 and 2011. I found history, current events and the future in their works; and grace, beauty, heartache, struggles and 

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Survivors: Sand Island

July 31, 1761: The French ship l'Utile, illegally transporting 160 Africans from Madagascar to Ile de France (Mauritius), approaches Sand Island. Because the captain worries about a potential revolt, he orders the hatches to be nailed shut. In the night, the ship runs into a reef and capsizes. 

What follows is, arguably, the most extraordinary story of survival ever documented.

More than 70 Africans trapped in the hold died that night, while 123 French crew and passengers (18 had died) escaped. Only 

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Bollywood and Africa: A Love Story

Few people in the West have heard international superstar Akon's new hit. But tens of millions throughout the rest of the world have been dancing to Chammak Challo for weeks. Why? Because the catchy tune is the musical centerpiece of the latest Bollywood sci-fi blockbuster Ra. One, whose (super) hero is no other than Shahrukh Khan, the most popular actor in the (rest of) the world. That Akon, a Senegalese,

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Sannu Niger!

ferdinandreus on flickrThe capture last week of Saif al-Islam Qaddafi who, disguised as a Tuareg, was trying to flee to Niger — where one of his brothers and some high-ranking officials have found refuge — has turned a spotlight on a country few people have heard of.

Niger? You mean

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Nikky Finney Wins National Book Award in Poetry

On November 16, Nikky Finney received the 2011 National Book Award in Poetry for her book Head Off & Split. Political, sensual, historical, imaginative, Finney’s poems speak of struggle, beauty, love, and race with passion and tenderness. The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, where she has been teaching for several years, congratulates her on 

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