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Schomburg Center Creates Black Migration Project, Web Site

Schomburg Center Creates Black Migration Project, Web Site

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is creating an education project focusing on Black migration over the past 400 years.

The project, which includes a new Web site, will give the public access to articles, photographs, maps and historic documents — including a letter from President Lincoln in which he writes about sending Blacks to Haiti.

Entertainer Harry Belafonte, who got his start in a basement theater at the original Schomburg Center in Harlem, said that the “In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience” project will help people learn about the “profound impact the African American has had in shaping the culture and history” of the United States.

“This Web site documents our journey,” said Belafonte, who immigrated from the Caribbean island of Jamaica and worked as a janitor in Harlem before becoming an actor and singer. “It will help us get on with the business of understanding who (we) are, make us become more prideful and for the rest of the world to understand what they have done to us, for us and with us.”

Besides the Web site, the project includes a book, published by National Geographic, and 100 lesson plans for schools.

The Web site has 17,000 pages of text from books and manuscripts, 8,000 photographs and 65 maps, many specially designed to trace international and domestic migration patterns of approximately 35 million Blacks and their ancestors.

For example, someone interested in Virginia can click on a map and follow the journey of runaway slaves from a plantation to the cities, said Dr. Sylviane Diouf, the project’s manager.

“This is an invitation to every person of African descent in the United States to revisit their families’ migration histories,” Diouf said.
The project, funded by a $2.4 million federal grant, breaks down the major movements of people of African descent into, out of and within the United States into 13 categories.

It also offers a new interpretation of African-American history: The first Africans arrived in South Carolina, Texas and Florida in the early 16th century — almost a century before the 1619 Jamestown settlement, said Howard Dodson, director of the Schomburg Center.

The Schomburg Center is a research unit of the New York Public Library. It was founded in 1911 by Arthur Schomburg, a collector of African-American books. For the past 80 years the center has collected and preserved materials documenting Black life. 

Associated Press

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