Monday, March 14, 2011

Swann Galleries: Printed and Manuscript African Americana, Sale 2239

Swann Galleries, 16th annual Printed and Manuscript African Americana sale, consisting of approximately 507 lots, was held on March 10, 2011. The sale was divided into a number of broad subject areas that included the following divisions: Slavery and Abolition; Art; Black Memorabilia; Black Panthers; Business, Civil Rights; Marcus Garvey; Literature and Poetry; Military; Music, Sports, and etc. The success of Sale 2239 can be summed up in the words of Wyatt Houston Day, Swann African Americana specialist, "This is unquestionably the most successful sale of African Americana we have had in 16 years of sales at Swann--for two very important reasons: a diversity of fine, and in many cases unique material, and most important to any auction, a number of very knowledgeable and aggressive bidders, in almost every area."

Items, such as those included in Swann Galleries' Printed and Manuscript African Americana, allow historians and the general public an opportunity to explore and discover documents of the past. These items, including photographs and posters; published and unpublished writings in the form of rare books, correspondence, pamphlets, diaries, brochures, and ephemera; as well as, artifacts or other concrete items, document the cultural heritage of people of African descent. They are crucial pieces that may be used to explain, clarify, and interpret the role of blacks in American and world history.

For years, collectors, bibliophiles, and individuals have played a significant role in the conservation and preservation of papers and other material culture items. The items may be a part of large collections or simply individual pieces, but their existence is a part of history, continually unfolding. As these items are sold, it is hoped that they find homes in institutions of higher education (libraries, repositories, archives, and special collections), historical societies, museums, research organizations, and other cultural agencies, where they might be used by the general public, researchers, scholars, and the like to meaningfully and accurately incorporate the black experience into the larger picture of American and world history. 

Sample items from Charles Harris
Wesley Archive; Sale 2239, Lot 281
 The top lot that sold for $43,200 was Charles Harris Wesley's archive of approximately 35 cartons of material, covering the period from 1927-1982. Wesley was a noted historian, scholar, educator, minister, and writer, a graduate of Fisk University who earned his Masters degree from Yale, his PhD from Harvard, and went on to teach at Howard University among other esteemed institutions. The archive was acquired by an institution.

Father Divine (banner); Sale 2239, Lot 465
The second top lot was a "large handmade banner, 54x53 inches, heavy purple felt with white, quilted letters sewn around an image of a dove on top of the world" associated with Father Divine's International Peace Mission. The banner had a high estimate of $1,000; it greatly surpassed that estimate when it successfully sold for $36,000 to an institution. Father Divine "founded the International Peace Mission movement in 1936, formulated its doctrine, and oversaw its growth from a small and predominantly black congregation into a multiracial and international church." 

Huey P. Newton poster;
Sale 2239, Lot 192
 There was active bidding in the Black Panther section of the auction with a number of items exceeding their high bid, including the Huey Newton poster: "The racist dog policeman must withdraw immediately from our communities" (1968). This classic image depicting Huey P. Newton, Panther Minister of Defense, seated in a large fan-back wicker chair, holding a rifle in one hand and a spear in the other had a high estimate of $2,500. It sold for $19,200, capturing a record price. 

For the full scope of the Printed and Manuscript African Americana sale, see images in the catalogue, and the final prices inclusive of Buyer's Premium at results.    

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