This essay uses Vanessa Valdés’s Diasporic Blackness: The Life and Times of Arturo Alfonso Schomburg (2017) to reflect on the different stakes surrounding debates about Schomburg as a historical figure and also as a heuristic for grasping the complex vicissitudes of Afro-Latinx life. It challenges historicizations that presume Afro-Latinidad to be a stable and additive political ontology and that possibly foreclose black Latinx strategies of disidentification or refusal that transcend racial or ethnic nationalisms. It also provokes readers to think of what it would be like to write about Schomburg outside of frameworks that cast him as a heroic rescuer of memory and therefore as an avatar of idealized masculine respectability. Lastly, this essay asks that we consider not just the historical actors and cultural producers that Schomburg devoted himself to illuminating but also how his posthumous heroization cast a shadow over nonanglophone black activist-intellectuals who did not conform to normative early twentieth century US black nationalisms.

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