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Elizabeth Heath

Ahmad Baba was one of the best-known Islamic scholars and writers of his time. Born into the prestigious Aqit family near Tombouctou (Timbuktu) in 1556, he was educated in Islamic theology and law. After completing his studies, he began writing books and treatises on theology, Islamic jurisprudence, history, and Arabic grammar. Over the course of his life he wrote more than fifty-six works. More than half of these are still in existence, and several are still used by West African ulama (scholars). Ahmad Baba also was a great collector of books; he amassed a library containing thousands of volumes. At this time, Tombouctou, ruled by the Songhai empire, was renowned throughout the Islamic world as a center of learning.

In 1591 the sultan of Morocco invaded Tombouctou. Ahmad Baba and other scholars refused to serve the Moroccan rulers and, by some accounts, instigated a 1593 rebellion against ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

book collector, historian, and journalist, was born in Philadelphia to George Bolivar, and Elizabeth LeCount Proctor Bolivar. There is some uncertainty about his precise year of birth, with historians suggesting 1844 (Silcox) or 1849 (Welborn), while census data inclines toward an 1847 date. His father was employed as a sailmaker by James Forten, a local businessman and founder of the Philadelphia Library Company of Colored Persons.

The family numbered themselves among the “O.P.”—Old Philadelphians—of the African American community. George Bolivar had been born in Philadelphia, to a Pennsylvania-born mother and a father from North Carolina. Elizabeth Bolivar was born in Pennsylvania to parents born in Maryland (1850 census). In 1850George Bolivar owned real estate valued at $8,000, while a North Carolina–born cousin, Nicholas Bolivar, lived with the family, working as a tailor. Throughout Bolivar s life there were relatives or ...

Article

Richard Newman

William Plummer French was born February 19, 1943 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, the son of Frank J. French, vice-president of Allied Chemical Co. and Bettina Plummer French. He worked at University Place Book Shop in New York, owned by Walter Goldwater, and became fascinated with African American books and literature, a field the shop specialized in to serve two major collectors, Arthur Schomburg and Arthur Spingarn.

Self-taught by the books in the store, French became probably the country's most knowledgeable expert on African American books and bibliography. He compiled two biographical pamphlets on black poetry, and in 1979 co-edited Afro-American Poetry and Drama, 1760–1975. Pre-deceased by his wife, the painter Garland Eliason, French died in New York of a stroke on January 14, 1997 survived by his son Will A book collecting prize at the Department of Afro American Studies at ...

Article

Robert L. Gale

bibliophile, researcher, and photographer, was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the son of Jacob Gardiner and Martha (maiden name unknown). In 1902 he and his family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From childhood he was interested in reading, cross-country running, hiking, camping, and bicycling. Later he developed an interest in music, choir singing, and photography. Racial discrimination kept him from attending the photography school of his choice in Philadelphia, to his great disappointment. In the early 1900s he began to collect material of various kinds concerning black achievements, black institutions, and the lynching of blacks.

From about 1908 to 1923 Gardiner attended meetings of the Philadelphia Afro American Historical Society later the American Negro Historical Society expressed his ideas and described his findings in what he called race literature He continued to build his collection of black memorabilia and helped to form a group of bibliophiles ...

Article

Robert L. Gale

Leon Gardiner was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the son of Jacob Gardiner and Martha (maiden name unknown). In 1902 he and his family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From childhood he was interested in reading, cross-country running, hiking, camping, and bicycling. Later he developed an interest in music, choir singing, and photography. Blatant racial discrimination kept him from attending the photography school of his choice in Philadelphia, to his great disappointment. In the very early 1900s he began to collect material of various kinds concerning the achievements of blacks, black institutions, and Lynchings of blacks.

From 1908 to 1923 or so Gardiner attended meetings held by Philadelphia s Afro American Historical Society later the American Negro Historical Society expressed his ideas and described his findings in what he called race literature and was encouraged by fellow members in various ways He kept adding to his collection ...

Article

Deborah H. Barnes

also wrote under the name Guarionex. Arthur Alfonso Schomburg's vast private collection, now housed in the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (formerly the 135th Street branch of the New York Public Library), is one of the outstanding collections of materials concerning the history and culture of people of African descent.

Schomburg was born on 24 January 1874 to an unwed freeborn mulatta, Maria Josepha, in Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and raised in Puerto Rico by his mother's family. Although he adopted his surname, there is no evidence that Schomburg's father, Carlos Federico Schomburg, a German-born merchant living in San Juan, acknowledged or supported his son. Little is known about Schomburg prior to his emigration to the United States. Upon arriving in New York in 1891 he settled into the Puerto Rican and Cuban community on Manhattan s east side For most of his ...

Article

Louis J. Parascandola

bibliophile and champion of black culture. Arthur (Arturo) Alfonso Schomburg was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. His father, a merchant, was the son of a Puerto Rican mother and a German immigrant father. It was his mother, a black migrant worker from the Virgin Islands, and his maternal grandparents who early on instilled in him a pride in his African heritage and spurred his interest in black culture. According to a perhaps apocryphal story, hearing the taunts of his white teachers and classmates that blacks had made no significant achievements inspired Schomburg to collect as many works by black authors as he could find.

Schomburg came to the United States on 17 April 1891 and soon gained employment in a law office in New York. He took a position at Bankers Trust Company in 1906 It was during his years as a law clerk and banker that he ...

Article

Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the son of a German father and a West Indian mother, Schomburg spent his childhood in Puerto Rico. After briefly attending Saint Thomas College in the Virgin Islands, he came to the United States in 1891 and began working in a New York City law office. In New York, Schomburg began to collect literary works and visual art by and about people of African descent. In 1906 Schomburg began working in the mailroom at Bankers Trust Company, where he remained until 1929. He became an active Prince Hall Mason, serving as grand secretary of the grand lodge from 1918 to 1926.

In 1911 Schomburg and African American journalist John E. Bruce founded the Negro Society for Historical Research as a base from which to publish articles on black history. In 1922 Schomburg was elected president of the American Negro ...

Article

Betty Kaplan Gubert

historian, bibliophile, and curator, was born Arturo Alfonso Schomburg in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the son of Mary Joseph, an unwed midwife or laundress who had been born free in 1837 on St. Croix, Virgin Islands. His father's name is unknown, though Schomburg recorded that he was born in 1839, the son of a German émigré merchant.

Details of Schomburg s education are also sparse He may have attended the College of St Thomas a secondary school but there is no documentation Schomburg knew French and his writings in Spanish are both grammatically correct and eloquent His lack of formal education ate away at him all his life and it was surely one of the spurs to his untiring search for information and his efforts to make the results widely known As a child he belonged to a club of young people who studied history ...