Archival Research at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, February 19-21, 2019

In February, three members of our team. Laura De Becker, Traci Lombre and Sandra Nwogu worked at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (Harlem, NY). For me, this was a first foray into archival research work and was a memorable learning experience. Our first day at the Schomburg Center had us in high spirits and with a lot of excitement for anticipated finds.

Sandra Nwogu, two boxes in!

The major focus of our research was the archives of the First World Festival of Black Arts (FESMAN), which was held in Dakar in April 1-24, 1966, under the auspices of UNESCO. We were on the hunt for information about how the festival was organized, the artists who were showcased, and about the delegates from different countries, especially the US. The Pan-African festivals held in the 1960s and 70s are a big part of our project and FESMAN was the first of them. These festivals provided an unprecedented platform for African artists and also artists of African descent to exhibit their work in a global context.

Traci digging into the catalogue

In the archives at Schomburg, some of the key finds included information about the US delegation to the festival, preparations and appeals for funding, as well as some of the types of art exhibited and how it was selected. Other interesting finds were correspondence from Leopold Senghor, the first president of Senegal and one of the key proponents of the concept of Negritude. We also located archived documents on the American Society of African Culture (AMSAC), including its publications and documents associated with activities during the1960s, and letters from Larry Neal who was a key contributor in the Black Arts Movement in the 1960s and 1970s.

During our time in New York, two of our team members, Laura De Becker and Traci Lombre, took the opportunity to visit “Reflections of Weusi II.” an exhibition organized by the Dorsey Gallery on the Weusi Art Collective. The Weusi Art Collective was a major player in the African and African American art scene especially during the 1960s and 70s.

Excellent brunch at Sylvia’s!

A trip to Harlem is not complete without throwing diets out the window, so we did exactly! While soaking up the vibrancy of the city, we spotted this stunning door walking down 127th Street.

Carved wood door from Benin (Nigeria), 127th Street, Harlem.

All in all, it was a fruitful research trip!

Sandra Nwogu
Graduate Student Researcher