A First Fridays party in the Schomburg Center courtyard.
(Photo: Cheryl Lathan/courtesy of the schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture)
For some, Harlem’s Schomburg Center is simply their local New York Public Library. But it’s also where you could have heard, recently, a lecture on Nat Turner, a scholarly discussion of the Young Lords Party (a Puerto Rican nationalist group), or a conversation with Ta-Nehisi Coates. The library, around since 1925, also functions like a museum, with rotating exhibitions — next up, “Black Suburbia: From Levittown to Ferguson” and “Unveiling Visions: The Alchemy of the Black Imagination” — meant to introduce visitors to the center’s vast collection of art, film, and rare books and manuscripts. There’s also a gift shop filled with books by James Baldwin, Malcolm X, and Maya Angelou — as well as everything else that can be black: posters of African art, a Kwanzaa kinara, an Aretha Franklin CD. And there are, of course, Black Lives Matter T-shirts. It’s all a physical reminder — one I’ve lately sought out more and more — that the current political movement is built on a legacy that’s both deep and wide.