Completed in 1980, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is one of the country’s foremost institutions focusing exclusively on African American, African Diaspora, and African experiences. The building is named for Arturo Schomburg, whose extensive donated collection helped form the Division of Negro Literature, History, and Prints at the 135th Street Branch, located around the corner, in 1926. That collection eventually moved to the Schomburg, one of four designated research libraries in the New York Public Library system.
A 1991 expansion connected the old and new buildings. It includes the Langston Hughes Lobby and the Langston Hughes Auditorium. The lobby floor features sculptor Houston Conwill’s “Rivers” Cosmogram, which includes excerpts from “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” (1920) poem by Langston Hughes. A portion of the acclaimed Harlem Renaissance poet’s ashes are interred underneath.
The Schomburg’s In the Life Archive (formerly the Black Gay and Lesbian Archive) is a collection of works by Black LGBT people and is housed in the Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division. A selection of LGBT individuals with records at the Schomburg include poet Assotto Saint; African American literary works collector Glenn Carrington, whose records also detail his life as a gay Black man from the 1920s to the 1960s; playwright Ira Jeffries; author and civil rights activist James Baldwin; and playwright and activist Lorraine Hansberry. Organizations with records here include the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (donated by founder Alvin Ailey); Gay Men of African Descent; Lavender Light Gospel Choir; and Other Countries, a group founded by and for gay Black male writers.
In January 2017, the Schomburg Center was declared a National Historic Landmark. It is adjacent to the Countee Cullen Branch.