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The New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Receives Single Largest Individual Gift In Its History


Donation From Ruth and Sid Lapidus will establish the Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Trans-Atlantic Slavery

JUNE 10 -- The New York Public Library today announced the single largest individual gift ever made to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem.

The $2.5 million gift from Ruth and Sid Lapidus will establish and endow the Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Trans-Atlantic Slavery, the only facility of its kind based in a public research library. The Center – which will be housed within the Schomburg Center’s Scholars in Residence program – will focus on the

interdisciplinary and transnational study of the slave trade, slavery, and anti-slavery pertaining to people of the Atlantic World.

The Center's mission will be to generate scholarly knowledge by supporting the work of leading researchers, as well as the broader research community of students and educators. The historic gift will support a position to staff the center, as well as fellowships on the topic.

The Lapidus donation also includes a wealth of material, including rare books and other printed materials, on the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade.

“Ruth and I are so pleased and gratified to be able to make this gift to the Schomburg of such an important part of my collection,” said Sid Lapidus. “After much reflection and consideration of other deserving alternatives, we decided that the Schomburg is the most appropriate place for these books and other materials on the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.  We hope and anticipate that this gift will make the Schomburg a most significant resource for scholars and others interested in studying the early years of the horrific slave trade and the beginnings of its abolition around the world.”

“This is a history-making moment for the Schomburg Center,” said Khalil Gibran Muhammad, director of the Schomburg Center. “Ruth and Sid Lapidus’s unprecedented gift will allow scholars from around the globe access to one of the richest collections of Trans-Atlantic slavery materials, including a gift of hundreds of rare books and printed material on the abolition of the slave trade. The Lapidus Center will increase by 50 percent the endowment for fellowships at the Schomburg Center, enhancing research monies at a time when humanities funding is in decline at colleges and universities. As the nation commemorates the 150th anniversary of the end of slavery and the fiftieth of the Civil Rights movement, there is no better time than now to extend the reach of Mr. Lapidus’s passion for preserving the history of the expansion of liberties in the world for generations to come.”

“What excellent news,” said scholar Annette Gordon-Reed, a professor of Law and a professor of History at Harvard University. “The slave trade, slavery, and abolition movements were global phenomena, and they must be studied that way. This gift, and the new center, make this point perfectly.  In addition, the material Mr. Lapidus has donated to the Library will be of incalculable use to scholars and, very importantly, to members of the public who wish to learn about  an  institution that continues to shape our world even to this day.”

"The Library is immensely grateful to Ruth and Sid Lapidus for this historic gift, which will establish a world-class center for the study of Trans Atlantic slavery," said NYPL President Tony Marx. "The center will generate and support scholarly work on this critically important subject, and make an incredibly rich collection of rare materials available to researchers. We are proud that the Schomburg will be the first public research library to offer these services, and look forward to opening the Lapidus Center." 

About The New York Public Library

The New York Public Library is a free provider of education and information for the people of New York and beyond. With 91 locations—including research and branch libraries—throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, the Library offers free materials, computer access, classes, exhibitions, programming and more to everyone from toddlers to scholars, and has seen record numbers of attendance and circulation in recent years. The New York Public Library serves more than 18 million patrons who come through its doors annually and millions more around the globe who use its resources at To offer this wide array of free programming, The New York Public Library relies on both public and private funding. Learn more about how to support the Library at  

About The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a research unit of The New York Public Library, is generally recognized as one of the leading institutions of its kind in the world. For more than 85 years the Center has collected, preserved, and provided access to materials documenting black life, and promoted the study and interpretation of the history and culture of peoples of African descent.  Educational and Cultural Programs at the Schomburg Center complement its research services and interpret its collections. Seminars, forums, workshops, staged readings, film screenings, performing arts programs, and special events are presented year round.  More information about Schomburg’s collections and programs can be found at