Philanthropy that is creative is wonderful! Book collectors Ruth and Sid Lapidus donated their personal collection of slavery memorabilia (over 400 items!), $2.5 million PLUS got the New York Public Library (NYPL) to match their financial gift to maintain their collection @SchomburgCenter. This was the Schomburg’s largest gift in its history! (July 14, 1905)
Quietly, at the recent Harlem dedication ceremony featuring rock star historians Professors Annette Gordon-Reed and David Blight, NYPL Trustees and Schomburg supporters, the @SchomburgCenter became the first public library in the world to open a center for transatlantic slavery study. Thank you, Ruth and Sid Lapidus!
During remarks, Mr. Lapidus, 76, intimated with a sense of humor that his book collection ‘obsession’ was occasionally encouraged by his wife of 55 years that filled their Harrison, NY home. He also explained options for anyone collecting books and pamphlets focused on the theme of liberty during the American Revolution for 50 years: “You could sell, donate or keep it in the family. I decided to creatively give it away,” said the Brooklyn native who was raised in New Rochelle.“I looked at the Schomburg’s slavery collection and mine and realized that I had more in my personal collection than they did,” said Lapidus, whose cache includes 18th century British, French and American slavery books and documents. “Part of me is sad to let go. But the other part of me knows that this is the best home for these materials,” Lapidus said. What will he do with all of that extra shelf space? “That was only a quarter of my stash. I will continue to collect. The dealers know what I like,” said the retired partner of Warburg Pincus, a New York-based private equity firm.
Fortunately, those of us who are Schomburg lovers, we are on the receiving end of this beautiful, wonderful gift from the Lapidus family. Thank you, again Ruth and Sid Lapidus!
The other highlights of the evening, of course, were the speakers.
Annette Gordon-Reed of University of Oxford-Queens College (UK), Harvard and Radcliffe, is one of the foremost scholars of Thomas Jefferson and author of the controversial book, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (University Press of Virginia, 1997).
David Blight is professor of American History and director of Yale’s Gilder Lehman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition. He is writing a new biography about Frederick Douglass, to be published in 2015.Together they shared stories and took questions from the audience on the joys and challenges of writing about the “complicated family lives” of historic figures during slavery. I posted an excerpt of their conversation on my YouTube channel. Check: “Annette Gordon-Reed & David Blight @Schomburgcenter.”
To learn more about the Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery, click here.