1. Ira Aldridge was born July 24, 1807, in New York City. Aldridge’s first exposure to live theatre was from the balcony of the Park Theatre, where the city’s performance arts was thriving. Then, with a booming interest, having acted with the African Grove Theatre, and still a teenager, Aldridge moved to London and toured many provinces in Europe. In 1826, Aldridge played Othello at London’s Royalty Theatre and made his London debut. Aldridge, despite having faced racism and prejudice from fellow actors and critics alike, became the first prominent black american actor to establish mainstream success in Shakespearean roles and to grace the stage of a major London theatre.

Image: NYPL Digital Gallery

    Ira Aldridge was born July 24, 1807, in New York City. Aldridge’s first exposure to live theatre was from the balcony of the Park Theatre, where the city’s performance arts was thriving. Then, with a booming interest, having acted with the African Grove Theatre, and still a teenager, Aldridge moved to London and toured many provinces in Europe. In 1826, Aldridge played Othello at London’s Royalty Theatre and made his London debut. Aldridge, despite having faced racism and prejudice from fellow actors and critics alike, became the first prominent black american actor to establish mainstream success in Shakespearean roles and to grace the stage of a major London theatre.

    Image: NYPL Digital Gallery

  2. In the Life: Martin Duberman

    In the Life: Martin Duberman

    image

    Writing a biography is hard work. American historian, biographer, playwright, and gay rights activist Martin Duberman knows this and has written several biographies including James Russell Lowell (a National Book Award finalist), Charles Francis Adams, Sr. (Bancroft Prize winner), Paul Robeson, and Howard Zinn, among other works. This time Duberman focuses his lens on two activists of note, in Hold Tight Gently; Michael Callen, Essex Hemphill and The Battlefield of AIDS (New Press, 2014).

    Tuesday, June 3, 2014, Duberman will be reading from his new work at the Schomburg Center, followed by a Q&A with the author and reception. Below Duberman talks the inspiration for the book, and his why he chose these two 1980s public figures to help tell a story about the devastating impact of AIDS particularly on the gay community.

    Martin Duberman: The biographical approach to history has always been the form most congenial to me, and after deciding that I wanted to write about the AIDS epidemic, I initially thought I’d tell the story through the lives of some half dozen or so individuals.  I wasn’t far into the research, though, when I realized that the lives of two men, Michael Callen, singer and activist, and Essex Hemphill, poet and cultural worker,image

    epitomized much of the AIDS narrative I was most interested in exploring—meaning, above all, the very different ways the epidemic impinged on the white gay and black gay communities. It helped that I’d known both men somewhat and had deeply admired both.

    The two never met and had little in common. Callen was a white mid-westerner who came to New York City after college to pursue a singing career. Hemphill was an African American gay man who grew up in Washington, D.C. and knew early that he wanted to become a writer, and specifically a poet. Both were diagnosed as HIV-positive early in the epidemic. In the half dozen years before the foundation of ACT-UP in 1987, Mike was at the forefront of the self-empowerment movement (about which little has previously been written). Essex—who always considered race, not sexual orientation his “primary emergency”—mostly steered clear of the white-dominated activist movement and devoted his energy instead to playing a key role in the black gay male and lesbian cultural flowering of the 1980s, now widely referred to as the “second Harlem Renaissance.”

    Their different paths and personalities exemplify the story of AIDS in the years preceding the discovery of protease inhibitors. Both men died of the disease, both at age 38.

    Please RSVP for the event.

    Photo Credit: Martin Duberman by Raymond Adams.

  3. Her Business, or Ours? Outing Lorraine at the Schomburg Center

    image

    On Thursday May 22, 2014, the Schomburg Center’s In the Life Archive series, Ordinary People, will feature the program Outing Lorraine, an engaging panel discussion about imposing gay and lesbian labels on public figures who never publicly identified as such. This conversation centers on playwright, activist and intellectual, Lorraine Hansberry. Panelists include Joi GreshamDirector of the Lorraine Hansberry Literary Trust, Alexis de Veauxwriter, Steven G. Fullwood, curator, and moderatorShawn(ta) Smith, librarian and writer.

    One panelist, Ms. Gresham, along with the moderator Shawn(ta) Smith, share their insights about their personal and professional connections to Hansberry’s work, and if the playwright’s sexuality matters, and if so, to whom and why.

    Joi Greshamimage

    I am connected to Lorraine through the blended family that she created in her life and that she left behind when she died.  My father, Robert Nemiroff, before meeting and marrying my mother, formed a close partnership with Lorraine in a marriage that lasted ten years and a deep friendship and creative collaboration that is actually still evolving as we look at and learn to appreciate its scope.  An only child, I grew up as part of that family — a direct beneficiary and guardian of her legacy.  I was trained in the theater from a very early age—benefitting from a close affinity with Lorraine and drawn to her artistry.  My primary career has been in dance.  I would say that Lorraine has deeply influenced and informed my work and creativity. I would also say that growing up inside of Lorraine’s creative realm has profoundly affected multiple and all aspects of my identity as an individual and as an artist. Lorraine was dedicated to art as a weapon in the struggle for human liberation and greater human understanding. She saw this as her fundamental calling as an artist. Her personal identity was factored into this as was her commitment to human service and an unreserved opposition to narcissism and vanity. In this regard, she was vehement.

    As we think about Lorraine’s sexuality and its importance I would say that to her, in general — someone’s status doesn’t matter — as much as how they construct their identity.  It is part of a larger continuum of personal and social liberation.  Lorraine was a person who carried multiple identities. Inside of any of those identities she steadily challenged the like-minded to bring a political examination to their engagement, to think about the broader human agency in their actions and encouraged all to focus on contributing to the larger movement of social transformation and civil rights.

    Shawn(ta) Smithimage

    Librarians are engaged in the information life-cycle, and I enjoy the work of disseminating information to students and researchers. As an archivist and scholar, however, I am challenged with the notion of “content creation.” In essence, we all have the power to re-interpret, create, and sometimes even, manipulate what others deem as information.

    There has been an erasure in our encyclopedias and history books on the African American experience and the contributions that African Americans have made in US History. The erasure of peoples of LGBT experience from history stems from this same act. We – black people, black LGBT people, black librarians, archivists, women, activists, scholars, and queer – are finally in a place of power and access to not only (re)write our histories, (re)claim our rich narratives, but ultimately, to right the wrongs bestowed upon us for generations. It is time to fill in the blanks of these systemic erasures.

     In respect to the conversation of “Outing Lorraine,” this concept of “outing” assumes the existence of shaming those who choose to bring to light a more complete and true Lorraine Hansberry. Being silent when information is clearly laid out before us is a worse crime than erasure. We know that Hansberry was married to a Communist. We know that Hansberry had an FBI file years before Raisin in the Sun was debuted. We also know that Hansberry was involved in lesbian feminist social networks. As responsible scholars and researchers, it is our duty to make connections to these, until recently, disparate points of Hansberry’s life. None of these facets are unrelated; Hansberry’s alliance and social networks with white lesbian feminists provides an added layer of complexity to any implied intentions for her work. Deepening the understanding of Hansberry’s life in mid-twentieth century McCarthy era, by using the analytical tools and access of African American and LGBT scholars and archivists today, the more lessons we as a global nation may receive from Hansberry’s work tomorrow. 

     

  4. Summer at the Schomburg Center

    (Source: issuu.com)

  5. We’re excited to see Carolyn Malachi and THEEsatisfaction on Monday, March 31 for the final installment of our Women’s Jazz Festival 2014. In the meantime, check out Carolyn Malachi's music video for “All Right”

    Be sure to get your tickets for Women’s Jazz Festival, before they sell out! 

  6. Watch last night’s engaging and powerful conversation at the Schomburg Center: Between the Lines: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Zadie Smith.

  7. The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture has been chosen as a 2014 finalist for a National Medal for Museum and Library Service by the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services.  Now in its 20th year, this award is the nation’s highest honor for extraordinary public service, recognizing institutions that are valuable community anchors. As a member of our community, we ask you to please share your own stories about the Schomburg Center here: www.facebook.com/USIMLS. 

    The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture has been chosen as a 2014 finalist for a National Medal for Museum and Library Service by the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services.  Now in its 20th year, this award is the nation’s highest honor for extraordinary public service, recognizing institutions that are valuable community anchors. As a member of our community, we ask you to please share your own stories about the Schomburg Center here: www.facebook.com/USIMLS

    (Source: )

  8. Women’s Jazz Festival 2014 
Mondays, March 10, 17, 24 & 31 at 7 p.m.  


March is Women’s History Month and at the Schomburg we mark this occasion with our Women’s Jazz Festival. Now in its 21st year, Women’s Jazz is our signature performance series. Singer, composer, producer, and activist Toshi Reagon returns to curate three of the four concerts. This year’s lineup includes:The Blues ProjectSpelman Jazz EnsembleMeshell Ndegeocello and Mem NahadrCarolyn Malachi and THESatisfaction
Get Your Tickets NOW

    Women’s Jazz Festival 2014 

    Mondays, March 10, 17, 24 & 31 at 7 p.m.
      

    March is Women’s History Month and at the Schomburg we mark this occasion with our Women’s Jazz Festival. Now in its 21st year, Women’s Jazz is our signature performance series. Singer, composer, producer, and activist Toshi Reagon returns to curate three of the four concerts. This year’s lineup includes:

    The Blues Project
    Spelman Jazz Ensemble
    Meshell Ndegeocello and Mem Nahadr
    Carolyn Malachi and THESatisfaction

    Get Your Tickets NOW

  9. The Studio Museum in Harlem and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture are pleased to announce a major collaboration celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of America’s greatest writers, Ralph Ellison. On Saturday, March 1, 2014—a century after Ellison’s birth in Oklahoma City—Ellison at 100: Reading Invisible Man will kick off a year of programs and initiatives celebrating the Ellison Centennial.

    Ellison at 100: Reading Invisible Man is free and open to all, and is organized by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and The Studio Museum in Harlem with the generous support of the Ralph and Fanny Ellison Charitable Trust. 

  10. New Date!
Join us on March 13 at 6:30 p.m. for a conversation between award-winning historian Sylviane A. Diouf and Pulitzer Prize winner Eric Foner about Diouf’s new book, Slavery’s Exiles: The Story of the American Maroons. 
In a preview of the talk, Diouf said: “One of my most surprising discoveries was the existence of maroons who have been completely overlooked. I call them “borderland maroons” because they settled in the woods and swamps bordering plantations. What is astonishing is that individuals, mothers with children, and entire families lived there for years in underground homes. Something else amazed me: the extent of the enslaved community’s solidarity without which the maroons could not have survived. The maroon experience was truly extraordinary and sheds new light on the larger slave resistance.”Free! Registration required.Photo Credit: Fugitive Slaves in the Dismal Swamp, Virginia by David Edward CroninNew-York Historical Society

    New Date!

    Join us on March 13 at 6:30 p.m. for a conversation between award-winning historian Sylviane A. Diouf and Pulitzer Prize winner Eric Foner about Diouf’s new book, Slavery’s Exiles: The Story of the American Maroons


    In a preview of the talk, Diouf said: “One of my most surprising discoveries was the existence of maroons who have been completely overlooked. I call them “borderland maroons” because they settled in the woods and swamps bordering plantations. What is astonishing is that individuals, mothers with children, and entire families lived there for years in underground homes. Something else amazed me: the extent of the enslaved community’s solidarity without which the maroons could not have survived. The maroon experience was truly extraordinary and sheds new light on the larger slave resistance.”

    Free! Registration required.

    Photo Credit: 
    Fugitive Slaves in the Dismal Swamp, Virginia by David Edward Cronin
    New-York Historical Society

  11. Join the Smithsonian Latino Center and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture for a public program honoring the legacy of the Puerto Rican-born, New York-based bibliophile and intellectual Arturo Schomburg (1874-1938).  This program will feature presentations by Fredericka Liggins (Hunter College), Adalaine Holton (Richard Stockton College of New Jersey), and Frances Negrón-Muntaner (Columbia University), followed by an onstage discussion and Q&A moderated by Khalil Muhammad, Director of the Schomburg Center.  Theater doors will open at 6 p.m.  
Free! First come, first seated.
This program will be webcast live!  View it here:
For more information call (202) 633-0925 or email woodamanr@si.edu.  

    Join the Smithsonian Latino Center and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture for a public program honoring the legacy of the Puerto Rican-born, New York-based bibliophile and intellectual Arturo Schomburg (1874-1938).  This program will feature presentations by Fredericka Liggins (Hunter College), Adalaine Holton (Richard Stockton College of New Jersey), and Frances Negrón-Muntaner (Columbia University), followed by an onstage discussion and Q&A moderated by Khalil Muhammad, Director of the Schomburg Center.  Theater doors will open at 6 p.m.  

    Free! First come, first seated.

    This program will be webcast live!  View it here:

    For more information call (202) 633-0925 or email woodamanr@si.edu.  

  12. Civil rights activist Rosa Parks is quoted as saying that she’d “like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free and wanted other people to be also free.” Today we remember the legacy of Ms. Parks who was born on this day, February 4, 1913.

    Civil rights activist Rosa Parks is quoted as saying that she’d “like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free and wanted other people to be also free.” Today we remember the legacy of Ms. Parks who was born on this day, February 4, 1913.

  13. Films at the Schomburg: Jamel Shabazz Street Photographer

    Monday, February 10, 2014 from 6:30pm to 8:00pm

    Jamel Shabazz has documentedurban life for more than 30 years and has covered the cultural growth of hip-hop in New York City since the 1980s. This film is a portrait of his life, career, and impact as a photographer, educator, and visual artist. Join director Charlie Ahearn (Wild Style) for a talkback with Shabazz.

    For more information and to register, visit our event’s page.  

  14. Don’t miss the Slavery on Film symposium at Museum of the Moving Image: Massa’ Gaze: Screenings and Critical Discussions of the Depictions of Slavery in Film and Television on February 1, from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.The symposium features screenings, panels, special guests: Sheril Antonio, Neema Barnette, Jelani Cobb, Stanley Crouch, Warrington Hudlin, Malcolm Lee, Shola Lynch, and Khalil Muhammad.  Tickets here!

    Don’t miss the Slavery on Film symposium at Museum of the Moving Image: Massa’ Gaze: Screenings and Critical Discussions of the Depictions of Slavery in Film and Television on February 1, from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

    The symposium features screenings, panels, special guests: Sheril Antonio, Neema Barnette, Jelani Cobb, Stanley Crouch, Warrington Hudlin, Malcolm Lee, Shola Lynch, and Khalil Muhammad.  

    Tickets here!

  15. Friday, January 31, 2014 from 6:30pm to 8:00pm
The Schomburg Center is proud to present “In the Tradition: An Intergenerational Dialogue on Progressive Activism and Black America,” a dialogue between actor, author, and activist Harry Belafonte and Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry, Professor of Political Science at Tulane University, MSNBC Host and author of Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America on the tradition of black activism, the role of activist intellectuals, the critical lessons of past movements and the challenges of organizing in the twenty-first century. How has the landscape for social justice become more complicated? What are the responsibilities of the black community to its advocates in times of attack? Join us for an enlightening conversation to be moderated by Dr. Jelani Cobb. 

For more information and to register, visit our event’s page.

    Friday, January 31, 2014 from 6:30pm to 8:00pm

    The Schomburg Center is proud to present “In the Tradition: An Intergenerational Dialogue on Progressive Activism and Black America,” a dialogue between actor, author, and activist Harry Belafonte and Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry, Professor of Political Science at Tulane University, MSNBC Host and author of Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America on the tradition of black activism, the role of activist intellectuals, the critical lessons of past movements and the challenges of organizing in the twenty-first century. How has the landscape for social justice become more complicated? What are the responsibilities of the black community to its advocates in times of attack? 

    Join us for an enlightening conversation to be moderated by Dr. Jelani Cobb.
     

    For more information and to register, visit our event’s page.