Schomburg was born in the town of Santurce, Puerto Rico (now part of San Juan), to Mary Joseph, a freeborn black midwife from St. Croix, and Carlos Federico Schomburg, a German merchant living in Puerto Rico.
While Schomburg was in grade school, one of his teachers claimed that blacks had no history, heroes or accomplishments. Inspired to prove the teacher wrong, Schomburg determined that he would find and document the accomplishments of Africans on their own continent and in the diaspora.
Schomburg was educated at San Juan’s Instituto Popular, where he learned commercial printing. At St. Thomas College in the Danish-ruled Virgin Islands, he studied Negro literature.
Schomburg immigrated to New York City on April 17, 1891, and settled in the Harlem section of Manhattan. He continued his studies to untangle the African thread of history in the fabric of the Americas. After experiencing racial discrimination in the US, he began calling himself “Afroborinqueño” which means “Afro-Puerto Rican”. He became a member of the “Revolutionary Committee of Puerto Rico” and became an active advocate of Puerto Rico’s and Cuba’s independence from Spain.
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