February 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library | SLJ DVD Review

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redstarSchomburg: The Man Who Built a Library. 52 min. Dreamscape. 2017. $38.99. ISBN 9781520087153.

Gr 4-8 –A teacher discounted young African-Puerto Rican student Arturo Schomburg’s heritage, stating, “There were no Negro heroes worth noting.” Rather than discourage him, that comment spurred his lifelong quest for the facts. Later, after immigrating to New York City in 1891, Arturo worked as a file clerk by day and started combing bookstores for buried treasures that revealed the scope of black contributions to world history and culture. His matchless collection included a signed poetry book of Phillis Wheatley, Benjamin Banneker’s almanacs, copies of Frederick Douglass’s abolitionist newspaper, The North Star, and thousands of volumes of evidence and artwork to contradict the “conspiracy of fraud to erase Black History.” This priceless collection was purchased by Andrew Carnegie and donated to the New York Public Library of Harlem in 1926, bearing Schomburg’s name. Yet, many have never heard of this bibliophile and tireless curator. Narrator Ron Butler skillfully reads Carole Boston Weatherford’s text, and each chapter is introduced with ragtime music of the era, which provides clear transitions. Certainly, students will be awed by new knowledge of black writers, revolutionaries, artists, statesmen, and scientists, and amazed by the black roots of known geniuses, such as John James Audubon, Alexandre Dumas, and Alexander Pushkin. Readers owe a huge debt to Schomburg for his painstaking scholarship, so that students never need to feel “less than.” VERDICT With stunning scope, this biographical piece changes the perception of black history in America, due to the passion, scholarship, and curation of one phenomenal hero.–Lonna Pierce, ­MacArthur and Thomas Jefferson Elementary School Libraries, Binghamton, NY

This review was published in the School Library Journal February 2018 issue.

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