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US African-American Research Center Celebrates Prominent Black Leaders


A center for African-American culture in the United States is celebrating its 80th anniversary by honoring international role models for their professional and humanitarian work on behalf of people of African descent around the globe.

The Schomburg Center is a public research library in New York devoted exclusively to documenting the history and cultural development of people of African descent. Scholar Arturo Alfonso Schomburg founded the Center in 1925.

Actress Phylicia Rashad, the celebration's co-host, says Arturo Schomburg's mission was to dispel myths about African peoples.

"It was his commitment to establishing the truth of African people's history and culture that led to the founding of this amazing institution," he said.

The Schomburg Center presented its Africana Heritage Award to 13 recipients, including poet and author Maya Angelou; Nigerian author Chinua Achebe; musician and actor Harry Belafonte; and actor and activist Ruby Dee. Most of the honorees are 80 years old or older to coincide with the 80th anniversary of the center.

Schomburg Center Director Howard Dodson says they pay tribute to people whose work is exemplary.

"The individuals who have been selected have been path-makers in each of their respective fields, and have in the course of their 50, 60 years of public life made significant contributions to the history and heritage and struggles of people of African descent around the world," he said.

Actors Harry Belafonte and Ruby Dee are alumni of the Schomburg Center, beginning their acting careers in the American Negro Theater located at the Center.

Actor Avery Brooks, a co-host of the celebration, says saluting leaders in various disciplines is important to represent the contributions Black people have made in many fields.

"Black achievement during the 20th century has not been limited to the arts and humanities. Men and women of African descent have faced a myriad of challenges in all areas. The African-American pioneers we honor tonight have paved the way for future generations," he said.

Howard Dodson says the Center will continue to honor Schomburg's vision and the work of these individuals for the next 80 years.

"The history of Black people has yet to be fully told, especially in the Western Hemisphere. Their story has not been a part of the history books, has not been a part of the telling of the making of the Americas. So, a big part of a our agenda is to support research and scholarship that tells that story more explicitly, and then get that word out to people around the world," he said.

The Schomburg Center's collection of more than 10 million items includes manuscripts, periodical archives, rare publications and photographs relating to African and African-American history and culture.