Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library

With great respect to the man's riveting life story, Caldecott and Coretta Scott King Honors author Carole Boston Weatherford (Freedom in Congo Square) relates through narrative poetry the story of Afro-Puerto Rican immigrant Arturo Schomburg. While each poem in Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library can stand alone as a single snapshot in the literary life of Schomburg, Weatherford's portrayal of the bibliophilic law clerk is so wondrous, readers won't be able to resist turning the pages to learn more.

In addition to shedding light on a man who voraciously collected books, letters, art and music created by people of African descent, Weatherford illuminates significant individuals whose art makes up the precious history Schomburg preserved and ultimately curated. She treats readers to fascinating glimpses of poet Phillis Wheatley, abolitionist Frederick Douglass, revolutionary Toussaint Louverture and composer Ludwig van Beethoven. And Schomburg did not stop at collecting. Despite having never attended college, his lectures, research and writing influenced the Harlem Renaissance and ensured that Africans' voice in history would not be silenced, "Arturo's articles, essays, and letters to the editor/ shared what he had learned--facts kept in darkness far too long..../ Schomburg's words give voice to the ancestors./ Their pigment flowed through his pen."

Complementing the lyrical language of Weatherford's words are the richly textured, bold paintings of another successful Afro-Puerto Rican man from Harlem, Pura Belpré Award-winning illustrator Eric Velasquez (Ol' Clip-Clop). The detail and majesty of Velasquez's art conveys wonderful layers of meaning likely to spark imagination and thoughtful reflection.

Picking up Schomburg's torch almost a century later, Weatherford and Velasquez are continuing to ensure that African history isn't lost: Schomburg started the collection that is now the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, part of the New York Public Library, and his pigment flows through others' pens as he becomes a significant part of his own narrative. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

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