Pastor Argudin y Pedroso, a Cuban born artist, held a display of his paintings at an exhibition at the Harmon Foundation, 140 Nassau Street, Manhattan, New York City in 1937. Mrs. William E. Harmon and others at exhibition of Spanish African American art. Viewers include Arturo (Arthur) Alfonso Schomburg (rear, center) Artist Richmond Barthe is seen among the crowd, and possibly also Beauford Delaney
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- For many, the Schomburg Center represents the heartbeat of Black history and culture in New York City.
Arturo Schomburg helped preserve artifacts that would have been lost to generations.
Old film shows Schomburg inside his namesake center at the New York Public Library, surrounded by the stacks of books and relics he amassed over the course of his lifetime. He was the resident expert and curator of his life's work, made available to the public in 1925.
Grandson Of Arturo Schomburg Says Legendary Collector Would Be Amazed By Schomburg Center, But :the work is not finished:
Dean's reading short list
BY DEAN SCHOMBURG
Generations of young minds have been trained to think of life on the American Frontier as a testimony to white gallantry. John Wayne whipped Indians, and children of every race rejoiced in this version of the frontier served up every Saturday afternoon at the movies. But for some reason I always rooted for the underdog, and still do. That’s why I wanted the Indians to win those pitched battles on the big screen. But they never did.
My maternal grandfather, Theodore Warren, (pictured here in Brooklyn New York in 1950) was a Shinnecock Indian but of a darker hue than normally associated with Native Americans.
(Photo by Dean Warren Schomburg)
I had often wondered why. My later visits to the Shinnecock reservation on the South Shore of Long Island, New York, after having seen many of the Shinnecock tribal members with equally dark skin and remembering the western movies in my youth where the Indians were never as dark as my grandfather, caused me to wonder about the source of this seeming anomaly.
It turns out that the first Africans brought to the new world by European slave traders probably arrived in April 1502 on board a ship that brought the new governor of Hispaniola, Nicolas de Ovando. Soon after they landed some Africans escaped to the woods and found a new home among the Native Americans (Black Indians, William Katz, Athenaeum Books N.Y. 1986). The first link of friendship between the two was a common foe…the Europeans…which was motivation for an alliance. Since the Native peoples willingly embraced newcomers to their villages Africans found they were welcome. Indians were often willing to accept outsiders to take advantage of their skills and to enlarge the tribe. Some Africans took on important roles in tribal life. They began to identify with their new friends of the hills, streams and mountains.
Naturally intermarriage took place among the villagers. The native peoples were not concerned and seemingly undeterred by the social construct we call race. Darker skin was no deterrent at that point in history, although that changed as the Eurocentric racist ideals gradually took hold over time and insinuated themselves into the native population. In fact, Circe Sturm writes in Blood Politics: Race, Culture and Identity in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma (Berkeley: University of California, 2002) that “by the late eighteenth century, in response to various maneuvers on the part of European colonists, Cherokees had internalized an understanding of racial differences and racial prejudice that articulated with Western views. At the same time, Cherokees manipulated the existing racial hierarchy, aggressively placing themselves at the top.” Meantime, British colonists tried to play one dark race against the other on the southern frontier.
The Maryland assembly, for example, offered Indians rewards for recapturing runaway slaves. So many slaves had fled to the six colonies of the Iroquois Confederacy that in 1776 a governor of New York made the leading chiefs promise to return all fugitives in their villages. In 1764 Hurons, to the North, made the same promise. The following year Delaware followed suit. However, there is no word of a single slave ever being returned by these indigenous hosts.
In the decades between the American revolution and the civil war, black Indian societies were reported in New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Connecticut, Tennessee and Massachusetts. With the abrupt conclusion of Reconstruction in 1877, thousands of blacks made their way from the South to the West, heading for Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Indian territory. These migrants were seeking to escape from the onslaught of white racial violence in a period of escalating attacks, and sought to resettle in a location where they could find economic opportunity, demonstrate their self-sufficiency and preserve their dignity. By the inception of the Civil War, New England Indian communities had experienced several generations of intermarriage with African Americans. (Crossing Waters, Crossing Worlds, Tiya Miles & Sharon P. Holland, Duke University Press, 2006.)
As the westward expansion continued, Africans constituted a significant portion of the population in California, then under Spanish rule, and mixed easily with Native Americans. A Spanish census of 1790 found 18 percent of the population of San Francisco, 24 percent of San Jose, 20 percent of Santa Barbara and 18 percent of Monterey could be traced to black ancestors.
In spite of strenuous efforts (by colonizers) to promote hatred between Indians and Africans a surprising number of slaves were harbored within the Indian communities throughout the colonial period. In most cases fugitive slaves disappeared into Indian society where they took Indian wives, produced children of mixed blood and contributed to Afro-Indian acculturation in the same fashion as those slaves who lived with the settlement Indians in the coastal regions.
The problem of identifying who was an Indian became complicated with the arrival of European settlers, traders, missionaries, adventurers and African slaves. Three conditions resulting from these contacts were important. First, outsiders mated with Indian women to produce offspring of mixed genetic heritage. Second, Indians sometimes captured blacks and whites and made them “Indians”. Third some Indians lost their identity because of assimilation with the outsiders. Likewise, Indians who did not associate with other Indians came to be judged as non-Indians. (Identity in Mashpee, James Clifford, Cambridge Mass. 1988)
By 1770 there were 2.3 million people living east of the Allegheny Mountains. 1.7 million were white, ½ million were black and 100 thousand were indigenous. What is surprising is that efforts to keep the races separate were thwarted in a society where the dominant group was involved in strenuous attempts to keep its bloodlines from being “contaminated” (Red,White and Black:The Peoples of Early America . Gary B. Nash, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs N.J., 1982).
Moving ahead to the late 19th century, birth records of black Indians were often surreptitiously changed to reflect black only and eliminated the Native reference. There were several reasons for this. The federal government had always attempted to limit the number of claimants to Indian heritage so that there would be less of a financial strain on the government’s resources. After all, the promises made to the Indians, many of which were never fulfilled, included health care, job training and other benefits as a result of having lost their tribal lands. Even today, the process by which a tribe or tribal member must substantiate Indian heritage is complex, involving written records going back to first contact, proof of tribal territory and language, and substantiation of consistent involvement in tribal affairs. Since most of the record keeping was done by the colonizers it’s extremely difficult to provide written proof of many of the Indian claims, and the oral tradition is deemed by the federal government as not trustworthy.
Black Indians who declare their heritage are sometimes subject to ridicule by their African-American acquaintances, some of whom say to claim Native American heritage is not authentic, and simply an effort to boost one’s self esteem.
In current situations, even some Native American tribes are disputing the authenticity of many black Indians. It appears to be an effort to limit tribal numbers, particularly among tribes which have opened gaming and casino establishments where some of the proceeds are divided among tribal members. They claim there is a run on Native American “wannabees” who would like a share of the gambling proceeds. On the other side of that spectrum, during the civil rights era it was politically incorrect for black folks to declare anything but an African heritage, and so the Indian ancestors remained under cover.
I often wish that my grandfather knew that I took his advice and visited the Shinnecock Reservation, starting about 20 years ago, and return every other year for the Powwow. When I see and hear the tribal members, I see and feel him. I am glad that his blood is coursing through my veins. I am angry at the way Native Americans have been treated in this, their original land, and continue to struggle. I suppose I can take some solace in the fact that as of this past December 15th, the Bureau of Indian Affairs officially recognized the Shinnecock as a tribe, but given the history of that Bureau, I’m not so sure what, if any, benefits will be forthcoming for the tribal members.
Let us hope for the best.
DEAN WARREN SCHOMBURG
Rutgers University, New Brunswick New Jersey
Master's Degree, Communication and Information Studies 2013
Certificate of Academic Excellence, 2010, Rutgers University
Fordham University, New York, New York
Bachelor of Arts Africana Studies 2010
Dean’s List (2009) Summa Cum Laude 3.81 GPA
Newscaster/Writer, Wall Street Journal Radio Network 1994 - 2008
New York, N.Y.
Announcer/Newscaster, WQXR classical radio 1989 - 1994
New York, N.Y.
Announcer/Newscaster, WNCN Classical Radio 1986 - 1989
New York, N.Y.
WMCA Radio, New York, N.Y. 1987-1989
WHYY Television Philadelphia Penna. 1970-1971
PAPERS AND PRESENTATIONS
"Black Male Roles in Television Commercials"
Center for Race and Ethnicity, Rutgers University 2013
Presenter, Graduate forum on Race and Ethnicity
University of Puerto Rico, Colegio de Abogados, 2013
Rio Piedras, P.R. Panel participant and presenter.
“Arturo Alfonso Schomburg: Vida, Obra Y Su Impacto
En La Historia”
How Stress and Coping Style Affect College Students 2012
(John Leustek, Dean Schomburg, Pamela Waid)
Essex County College, Newark N.J. 2010
“The Life and Legacy of Arturo Alfonso Schomburg”
Presenter, Taller Puertorriqueño, Philadelphia Penna. 2010
Panelist, birthday celebration of Arturo Schomburg
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Schomburg Corporation (Chairman, Government Advocacy)
National Association of Black Journalists
Council of Black Graduates (Rutgers University)
Advisory Board, Africana Studies Dept., Essex County College, Newark,
American Federation of Television and Radio Artists
.Dean Schomburg is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of Fordham University where he earned his Bachelor’s degree with a major in African & African-American Studies. Dean completed his senior undergraduate year at Rutgers New Brunswick. He completed his Master's degree in Communication and Information Services at Rutgers University where he earned an Academic Excellence Award for placing in the top 10-percent of his graduating class.
Brooklyn born Dean (on-air name was Warren Dean) had spent his entire career as a radio news anchor. Before retiring in 2008 he spent the prior 14 years as a newscaster/writer with the Wall Street Journal Radio Network. He also hosted a network television program "Black Perspective on the News" in the early 1970's that originated at WHYY TV in Philadelphia and was carried by the Eastern Educational Network. He was a radio news anchor for the ABC Contemporary Radio Network headquartered in New York City and an on-air host at New York City classical radio stations WQXR and WNCN.
Dean is a grandson of noted bibliophile and historian Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, whose private collection of art and artifacts relating to the contributions made by people of color to civil society formed the basis of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, one of four research libraries of the New York Public Library system. He chaired the Government Advocacy Committee of the Schomburg Corporation, a non-profit which raises funds for the Schomburg Center. In his spare time (pre-pandemic) Dean enjoyed traveling to various points of the globe in pursuit of his love for jazz music. He attended jazz concerts ranging from Havana to Dubai and embarked on a yearly jazz cruise to the Caribbean, where he mixed with the musicians and played his flute and alto sax during the "passenger jams".
DEAN WARREN SCHOMBURG
Dean Schomburg discussed the life and legacy of his grandfather Arturo Alfonso Schomburg whose vast collection of black historical items was the basis for the creation of the New York Public Library center which bears his name.
Essex County College, Newark, N.J. February 18, 2010
By Dorothy Davis
A glittering array of celebrities appeared at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, in Harlem, to celebrate the brilliant new online resource “In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience.” The exhibit tells the in-depth story of over five hundred years of African-Americans on the move. It tells about the thirteen separate African-American migrations, from the 1500s until today. Only two of them (The Transatlantic Slave Trade and The Domestic Slave Trade) were involuntary. Others included Haitian Immigration--18th and 19th Centuries, Western Migration, The Great Migration, Caribbean Immigration, and African Immigration.
What did Harry Belafonte, the famous actor, singer, producer and human rights advocate, have to say about “In Motion"
Harry Belafonte at the Schomburg Center 2005
“It gives us a chance to speak with some authenticity and authority about what our journey has been. Young students, young minds that are eager to know more about who and what we are as a nation and certainly as Africans will be rewarded amply by what they will experience on this website.”
What special message for teachers came from Dean W. Schomburg, a distinguished radio commentator and grandson of the Puerto Rican born Black Scholar, bibliophile and NYPL benefactor, Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, for whom the Center was named?
“Teaching is so important and so under appreciated. I would like to urge teachers to visit our new website, “In Motion”. It’s set up for them with lesson plans right on there. How much easier could it be? With kids you never know what will possess them. If you expose them to this website some of them may be inspired by it. Just let them know it’s here. Even if only one person in your class gets taken by it I’d be happy with that. That would be a wonderful thing!”
What did Paul LeClerc, President of The New York Public Library, have to say about the website?
“[It is] the single most extraordinary online version of a library that I think is possible, the best that is available in the world today.”
What did Congressman Charles Rangel have to say?
“I have shared [this] with members of the Congressional Black Caucus and I can’t begin to tell you how excited they are about this great project. The African-American is just one of the few people in this great country that if they were to give us a million dollars to go to our homeland we have no clue as to where to go. We don’t know what we would do without the Schomburg in shedding some light on who we are as a people. Where did we come from? Where did we anchor our culture and beliefs, including religious beliefs? What were our hopes and aspirations? It makes us all better persons to know who we are.”
What special message for teachers did Howard Dodson, Director of The Schomburg Center, have about the website?
“The African-American experience is a central part of America’s experience. Let’s hope that this resource will assist teachers in incorporating some of the missing pages of American history into their classroom experiences.”And what did 6th Grader Sam Howard, who attended the preview with his mother, Mamie Bittner, a Director at the Institute of Museum and Library Services, have to say about the website after he’d seen the preview? “That was really good!
The Price of the Ticket: Collected NonFiction 1948-1985. James Baldwin
Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond & Grover Gardner (2001)
Debating Race: with Michael Eric Dyson, by Michael Eric Dyson. (2007), Civitas Books
Psycho-Cybernetics, A New Way to Get More Living Out of Life by Maxwell Maltz (1989)
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, (2011), by Manning Marable Penguin Viking
One Drop: My Father’s Hidden Life – A Story of Race and Family Secrets, by Bliss Broyard, (2007), Little, Brown & Co
Blues People: Negro Music in White America, by Imamu Amiri Baraka, (1999), Harper Collins
Baseball’s Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy, by Jules Tygiel, (1983), Oxford University Press
Black Indians: A Hidden Heritage, by William Loren Katz, (1986), Atheneum Books