Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, September 25, 2017

Schomburg: the Man Who Built a Library by Carole Boston Weatherford

Schomburg: the Man Who Built a Library
By Carole Boston Weatherford; Illustrated by Eric Velasquez
Candlewick Press. 2017
ISBN: 9780763680466
To write this review, I borrowed the book from my,local public library.

Note: While Cathy is on sabbatical until February, 2018, Louise is writing all the reviews.

Where is our historian to give us our side, to teach our people our own history?”

Afro-Puerto Rican, Arturo Schomburg spent his life amassing a large collect of over ten million items of print, music, and art.

“Like a detective, he hunted clues and found facts affirming the role of African descendants in building nations and shaping cultures.”

This stunning informational biography follows Arturo’s life, from his birth in Puerto Rico in 1874 to his arrival in the United States at age seventeen, and traces his life-long passion of searching for materials that confirmed African achievements in art, science, literature, and music. He died June 8, 1938.

 "History was not history unless it was complete from all angles."

Weatherford (Freedom in Congo Square) is a master at crafting poems that say so much with few words. Accompanying the text are the illustrations by Eric Velasquez. Rendered in oil on watercolor paper, these large, luscious paintings give a visual depth to Schomburg’s life.

It is remarkable to learn about some of the materials Schomburg was able to find. A copy of Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral by Phyllis Wheatley, published in 1773. He purchased the military orders of Toussaint Louverture, the leader of the revolt to liberate slaves in Haiti and two volumes written by early American whaler, shipbuilder, and maritime trader, Paul Cuffee.

Arturo was inspired after reading the word written by Frederick Douglass, “his speeches awake Arturo to the power of the pen.”

Arturo wondered why the African heritage of Russian poet Alexander Pushkin and German composer Ludwig van Beethoven was never mentioned.

When his vast collection threatened to overrun his home and threaten his family’s happiness, Arturo sold his collection for $10,000 to the Carnegie Corporation where it was donated to the New York Public Library in 1926. In 1932, Stomburg added four thousand volumes to the Fisk University Library’s Negro Collection.

An extraordinary book about a remarkable man.

Back matter includes a time line, source notes, and bibliography.

“Schomburg placed his personal bookplate in every volume he collected. It featured an engraving of an enslaved woman in chains, hands clasped, looking heavenward. Her plight and her plea spark questions. Schomburg’’s collection holds answers: each artifact a window on the past, each book cover a door of possibilities, each page a passport to freedom.”

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