Published: April 10, 2007
Swann Galleries’ 12th annual auction of printed and manuscript African Americana on February 27 featured material related to slavery and abolition, the modern Civil Rights movement and the varied contributions to literature, theater, film, music, art and sports by African Americans.
The sale contained many significant items related to slavery and abolition. These included two unusual documents pertaining to the slave trade: a 1557 manuscript document signed by Andres Hurtado de Medoca, Marques de Canete, as viceroy of Peru, concerning the earliest free blacks in the Americas, which realized $7,200; and Journal Book for Affrica, a logbook kept by noted slave-ship captain Nathaniel Briggs for the slave ships Betsey and Salley out of Newport, 1765‶6, $33,600.
A strong selection of correspondence and publications by famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass featured a long autographed letter signed to Anna Richardson, one of the two English Quaker women who bought his freedom, London, 1846, $31,200. Other Douglass highlights included a scarce copy of his newspaper, The North Star , Volume I, No. XIV, Friday March 31, 1848, Rochester, $6,720; his only novella, The Heroic Slave , first edition, Boston, 1853, $6,960; and a printing of his extraordinary speech, “The Claims of the Negro Ethnologically Considered,” Rochester, 1854, $8,400.
Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman by Sarah Bradford, first edition, Auburn, 1869, the first biography of the noted abolitionist and reformer, did best among the slave narratives, fetching $4,320.
A personal item pertaining to another larger-than-life Nineteenth Century African American figure was Haitian-born philanthropist and former slave Pierre Toussaint’s twice-signed last will and testament, 1842 and 1852, which brought $8,400.
Notable public documents concerning slavery and abolition in the United States included a large “extra,” Slave Market of America, issued by the American Anti-Slavery Society’s newspaper, Emancipator, New York, 1836, $6,240; an annotated auction program for the sale of slaves, Cooper River Rice Field Negroes, Charleston, 1849, $11,400; an unusual presidential pardon under the Fugitive Slave Act, a document signed by President Franklin Pierce releasing Noah Hanson, convicted of harboring runaway slaves, from prison, Washington, July 19, 1854, $9,000; and a broadside issued by the Philadelphia, Wilmington, Baltimore Railroad announcing that “All Colored People (Bond or Free) wishing to travel&⁷ill be required to bring with them to the Ticket Office some Responsible White Person&⁴o sign a bond&efore they can proceed,” Baltimore, March 1, 1858, $9,000.
There were early photographs depicting slaves and former slaves, including “Slaves of Thomas Drayton, Hilton Head,” an albumen photograph of newly freed individuals, circa 1861‶2, $10,800; “The Scourged Back,” a carte-de-visite showing the dreadfully scarred back of Private Gordon, Philadelphia, 1863, $8,400; and “Emancipated Slaves Brought to Louisiana by Col. George H. Hanks,” an oval albumen photograph, New York, 1863, used to raise funds for the education of colored people, $5,280.
A charming folk art item was a child’s hand-drawn version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a deck of 42 handmade cards representing scenes from the book, with captions, created in 1862, perhaps as a learning device, which brought $4,800.
As always, historical prints were in demand. These ranged from a racist chromolithograph of Frederick Douglass and his white second wife, Helen Pitts, “Sulfur Bitters, the Great Blood Purifier,” circa 1884‸5, which sold for $2,880; to “The Fifteenth Amendment,” hand-colored lithograph, New York, 1870, $7,200; and a World War II lithograph, “The Dawn of Hope,” 1918, $4,560.
Chilling reminders of the Jim Crow era included a notice of a North Carolina law, providing for the separate accommodations of white and colored passengers upon motor buses, Raleigh, 1907, $4,320; a water fountain painted with the single word “White” on the front, circa 1940s‵0s, $1,800; and a poster printed by the American Negro Congress, “Pass the Anti-Poll Tax Bill, Free Ten Million Americans for Victory,” New York, circa 1943, $4,080.
The modern Civil Rights movement was well-represented by Martin Luther King Jr’s still-timely “Ten Commandments on Vietnam,” notes for a speech he drafted before he was assassinated, typed and with ink corrections by Coretta Scott King, who delivered the speech at the Peace March in New York on April 27, 1968, which sold for $13,200.
There was considerable interest in Black Panther memorabilia, with the SNCC pamphlet, Us Colored People , 1966, and an archive of black radical ephemera of the 1960s‷0s, each bringing $2,640; and the iconic poster of Huey Newton posing as a warrior seated on a wicker “throne,” circa 1969, selling for $2,040.
Other material concerning Twentieth Century figures included a large archive related to educator, suffragette and anti-lynching activist, Ella Barksdale-Brown, 1911″0s, which sold for $6,480; a poster for Marcus Garvey’s Black Star Line and the S.S. Phillis Wheatley, New York, 1921, $4,800; and a poster for the First Annual Convention of The Moorish Science Temple of America, featuring a photo of founder Noble Ali Drew, Chicago, 1928, $6,240.
Highlights among the books included the first and only edition of The Creole Cookery Book by the Christian Women’s Exchange of New Orleans, 1885, $2,400; a first edition of Georgia Douglas Johnson’s rare first book, The Heart of a Woman and Other Poems , Boston, 1918, $2,880; and a signed copy of W.E.B. DuBois’s Black Reconstruction in America, New York, 1956, $3,360.
Scarce promotional pieces for a wide range of noted performers also drew attention. A lithograph poster for Ira Aldridge, African tragedian, 1858, reached $9,600; a photographic placard for the Fisk University Jubilee Singers, circa 1885, $9,000; a brochure for the first American appearance of Sissieretta Jones, the opera singer known as the Black Patti, New York, 1892, $2,040; a poster for Bert Williams, exclusive Columbia recording artist, the greatest black vaudevillian of his day, circa 1915′0, $4,320; and Rock ‘n Roll Stars on Parade, a pictorial souvenir album signed by Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, John Coltrane, Fats Domino, Muddy Waters and others, 1955, $3,600.
Sports fans competed for a photograph of Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella and Don Newcomb in the Dodgers dugout, circa 1958‶0, signed by all three, $3,840.
Finally, among items from the estate of the late, multi-talented Gordon Parks, a photograph taken by his son, David, showing him on horseback, wearing his signature poncho and cowboy hat, sold with the pictured poncho and hat, for $3,840.
All prices include buyer’s premium. For information, 212-254-4710 or www.swanngalleries.com .
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