Philosopher George Santayana is quoted as saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” I believe it’s true that if we don’t remember the mistakes of the past we’ll repeat them, but I also believe there are things in the past that are not only worth remembering, but repeating as well. Case in point: Arthur A. Schomburg.
For instance, what can you tell of someone’s past from their name? My real name is Anna Taylor Sweringen. Except perhaps that I’m female, what would you guess about me? From the way Sweringen sounds (swur-in-gen) would think Dutch or German? My husband’s family name was originally van Swearingen, so if you guessed Dutch you were right. But without meeting me, would you have guessed by that name I’m African American Manhattan born and Brooklyn bred?
What about Arthur A. Schomburg? Male? Maybe with some Latinx ancestry? Some European? You’d be right on all counts. Arturo Alfonso Schomburg was born in 1874 in Canegros,Puerto Rico of African and German ancestry. I first learned of Mr. Schomburg when as a teen I visited the Schomburg on 135th Street off Lenox avenue in Harlem. I remember learning there that one of Schomburg’s teachers told him black people had not contributed anything to history, that black people had no past to remember. Schomburg spent his life dispelling that myth. In 1926, the Carnegie Corporation gave the New York Public Library $10,000 to purchase his collection of books, artwork and other materials that by then exceeded 10,000 items. Mr. Schomburg served as the curator of the collection until his death in 1938. In 1972, the library’s collection was moved from its 135th building to a brand new building next door on the corner of Lenox Avenue and became the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. The Center is now a National Historic Landmark and houses over eleven million items.
I’m now 62, but I’ve never forgotten the wonder and pride I felt in my youth as I walked from one end to the other of the original 135th street building looking at the sculptures, the paintings and the books created by people of African ancestry. I’ve always loved history in general, but I’m sure the seeds of my love for African and African American history in particular can trace their roots back to those visits. The Center is sowing similar seeds in present generations through their Junior Scholars and Teen Curators programs. One current exhibits includes work by the teen curators, combined with work by anthropologist Melville Herskovits, who like Schomburg also argued against the myth that those of African ancestry had no past.
If remembering the past leads to revelation and reverence in ways that uplift and inspire the better angels of our nature, then that’s a past I don’t mind being doomed to repeat. If you ever visit New York, make the Schomburg a must-see stop. Until then, enjoy it online at https://www.nypl.org/locations/schomburg.
One Breath Away
Sentenced to hang for a crime she didn’t commit, former slave Mary Hamilton was exonerated at literally the last gasp. She returns to Safe Haven, broken and resigned to live alone. Never having been courted, cuddled or spooned, Mary now fears any kind of physical intimacy when arousal forces her to relive the asphyxiation of her hanging. But then the handsome stranger who saved her shows up, stealing her breath from across the room and promising so much more.
Wealthy freeborn-Black Eban Thurman followed Mary to Safe Haven, believing a relationship with Mary was foretold by the stars. He must marry her to reclaim his family farm. But first he must help her heal, and to do that means revealing his own predilection for edgier sex.
Then just as Eban begins to win Mary’s trust, an enemy from the past threatens to keep them one breath away from love…
God created something unique from Africa’s ebony clay when He made this one. Eban’s broad nose and high cheekbones belonged on a statue in a museum for all to enjoy. Legs long enough to cross the length of Texas in five strides brought Eban in her direction. An expensively tailored jacket hung off shoulders that could span the banks of the Rio Grande. A ruby glinted in his left earlobe and conspired with his shaved head to give him an air of mystery and menace.
Mary closed her eyes and again tried to resist his allure.
The devil often appears as an angel of light.
She sucked in a breath, opened her eyes, and gnawed her lip. This angel of light hadn’t stopped his approach. Clenching her thighs hadn’t stifled the desire swelling within her privates.
Hadn’t smothered the hope reviving in her heart.
Felicity slanted her head to the right. A coy smile gave the angle weight.
“And what brings you to our side of the room, stranger?” She repeated her breast-swelling move and grinned, peacock proud. “See something you like?”
Eban tapped a finger in salute at his brow. “More than like, miss.”
His smile turned up the heat in his gaze. Mary frowned, painfully aware the smell of her passion lingered in the air, despite the woolen barrier of her skirt.
He stepped forward so his hand-stitched boots stood toe-to-toe with Mary’s second-hand shoes. “Eban Thurman, at your service, Miss Hamilton. May I get you something to drink?”
At her service? The air congealed. Mary gasped, trying to suck in air too solid to inflate her lungs.
“No—no, thank you. I’m not thirsty.” Her stutter mimicked the tremor between her thighs. She clasped her hands and planted them hard against her lap.
“It’s a really hot night.” He turned his hand palm up in a silent plea. “Perhaps you’d find a waltz more cooling.” He eased his fingers into her clenched hands. “May I beg the honor of this dance?”
“Yes, Miss Hamilton.” He tilted his head, slanting his smile to the right. “Beg.”
“You don’t strike me as the begging type, Mr. Thurman.”
“To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.” He tongue-swiped his full lips as if he’d just tasted something he wanted to taste again. “I know when it’s time to beg.”
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About the Author
A native New Yorker, Michal Scott is the pen name of Anna Taylor Sweringen, an ordained United Church of Christ and Presbyterian Church USA minister. Using the writings of the love mystics of Begijn for inspiration, Michal Scott writes Christian erotica and Christian erotic romance (i.e. erotica and erotic romance with a faith arc), hoping to build a bridge between the sacred and secular, spirituality and sexuality, erotica and Christ, her readers and a well-written spiritually-stimulating and erotically-arousing story. As an African American, she writes stories to give insight into the African American experience in the US. She has been writing romance seriously since joining Romance Writers of America in 2003 and had her first novel published in 2008. She writes inspirational romance as Anna Taylor and gothic romance as Anna M. Taylor. You can connect with Anna on Twitter @mscottauthor1 and learn more about her and her writing at her various websites: www.michalscott.webs.com, www.annamtaylor.webs.com and www.annataylor2678.webs.com.
Thanks for having me again. I enjoy sharing about my love of history and my brushes with it.
Wow, it’s really true that we know only what we’re taught in our history classes (or are exposed to). I never knew that library existed, although I’d strongly argue against the ridiculous idea that there is no African American history!
I hope you get a chance to visit it, Jennifer.
Unfortunately the belief is still out there when you hear people who you hoped would know better say things like only Europeans have contributed to civilization. I know with African Americans it’s all tied to the rationalization/justification for slavery, colonialism and their aftermath. It gets me thinking how this is/has been/continues to be done not only to Africans and African Americans but other people/races/religions that hold minority positions in their societies. I pray for end of the need to have the other be less than so we can feel good about ourselves. Thanks for stopping by.
Fascinating article. I love names that confront stereotypes head on. It’s really sad, and angry-making, how many times the victors in history attempt to rewrite the past to discredit their victims and justify their actions. I live in Australia and white settlers also tried to write Aboriginal Australians, the first Australians, out of the history books. We’re still battling with correcting that.
Thanks for sharing the inspiring story of Arthur Schomburg, as well as your own!
In Canada, when I was going to school [way back when] we barely touched upon the African-American experience. Likely because we learned from American textbooks.
One Breath Away sounds like an intriguing, enticing story. Nice excerpt.
Great article, Anna! Thank you for sharing!
Thanks for the appreciation, Jessica. : )
Michal! Come back anytime you like. I really love your posts!