Swann Celebrates 20th Annual African Americana Auction

March 3, 2016

Lot-415-E-Simms-Campbell-Night-Club-Map-HarlemOn Thursday, March 31, Swann Galleries will hold an auction of Printed & Manuscript African Americana, the 20th annual sale for this groundbreaking department at Swann.

Lot-133-Banneker-AlmanacThe top lot of the sale is a rare copy of Benjamin Banneker’s Bannaker’s (sic) … Almanack and Ephemeris for the Year of Our Lord 1796, Baltimore, (1795). Banneker, a self-taught astronomer, mathematician, surveyor, famer and herbalist, helped survey the Federal Territory that became Washington, D.C. The almanac is estimated at $60,000 to $80,000. Another rarity in the sale is a copy of investigative journalist and suffragist Ida B. Wells’s magazine The Woman’s Forum, Vol. 1, No. 3, November 1922 (estimate: $8,000 to $12,000). This is the only known surviving copy of any issue of Wells’s magazine.

A run of items related to abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass are also featured in the sale. Two letters from Douglass will be auctioned: one to a son of Alphonso Janes of Providence, RI, thanking him and briefly discussing time spent in Providence in his early 20s, and another to fellow abolitionist Lewis Tappan. The letters are estimated at $40,000 to $60,000 and $25,000 to $35,000, respectively. Several editions of Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself, are present in the sale, including a copy of the 1848 edition published at the office of the North Star, Douglass’s paper ($18,000 to $22,000). 

Additional narratives include one the earliest printed slave narratives in English by James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, [circa 1770] ($8,000 to $12,000), and a first edition of the rare Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs, edited by Lydia Maria Child, 1861 ($3,500 to $5,000).

Other highlights of the sale relate to music and entertainment, including the original artwork for E. Simms Campbell’s well-known A Night-Club Map of Harlem, pen and brush, 1932 ($40,000 to $60,000). The map appeared as the centerfold of the first issue of Manhattan Magazine, in 1932, and appeared again in Esquire nine months later. Featuring speakeasies and nightclubs along with little vignettes of notable Harlem characters, the map is truly a “who’s who” of 1920s-30s Harlem. Other musical lots include Please Say You Will, 1895, the first printing of Scott Joplin’s first published piece of music ($3,500 to $5,000), and a group of seventeen gelatin silver print photographs of Cab Calloway taken by Harlem Renaissance affiliate Carl Van Vechten ($3,000 to $4,000).

Two items in the sale are tied to beloved author and activist Dr. Maya Angelou: a quilt titled The Love of Liberty Brought Us Here, given to Dr. Angelou by Liberian President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Sirleaf ($10,000 to $15,000), and copy of Fortune Magazine featuring twenty-six color illustrations from Jacob Lawrence’s Exodus series, signed and inscribed “For Maya Angelou” by the artist ($600 to $900).

Items related to the Civil Rights movement include an iconic I AM A MAN placard, carried in the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers strike ($6,000 to $9,000). Also featured is a limited edition portfolio of 12 signed and numbered photographs, Countdown to Eternity: Photographs of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by Benedict Fernandez, 1989 ($5,000 to $7,500). A rich archive of the papers of Reverend Leon Sullivan, minister, civil rights activist and founder of the “Sullivan Principles,” a code of conduct for corporate social responsibility, is also on offer. The archive features letters, sermons, flyers and photographs among other items ($4,000 to $6,000).

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This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther Party, and fittingly the sale features a wealth of Black Panthers material. Among the items included are the first Black Panthers poster, Move on Over or We’ll Move on Over You, circa 1966 ($8,000 to $12,000), as well as original berets, photographs, and a collection of several hundred pieces of correspondence sent to the Santa Clara Courthouse while the trial of Angela Davis was occurring, circa 1972 ($1,500 to $2,500).

The auction will be held Thursday, March 31, beginning at 10:30 a.m. The auction preview will be open to the public Saturday, March 26 from noon to 5 p.m.; and Monday, March 28 through Wednesday, March 30 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

An illustrated auction catalogue is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, Inc., 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, or online at www.swanngalleries.com.

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