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Historic accounts & signed material at Swann African Americana Auction
Frederick Douglass, signed albumen cabinet card, by George Kendall Warren, circa 1879. Estimate $10,000 to $15,000.


NEW YORK, NY.- Swann Galleries’ auction of Printed & Manuscript African Americana on Thursday, March 29 sheds light on some of the darker moments in American history and provides crucial context for cultural sea changes, from abolition to the Civil Rights Movement.

Setting the auction apart is a selection of documents concerning named individuals who are too often lost to history. First-person accounts of enslaved people rarely appear on the market because literacy was uncommon in the community. An archive of 1842-45 letters revealing multiple perspectives regarding a single incident includes a letter by Gabriel Johnson, a man enslaved at Mount Vernon, declaring that he would not be whipped by anyone but his own master. It is addressed to John Augustine Washington and is believed to be the only extant letter written from the infamous Bruin’s Slave Jail in Alexandria, VA, and was dictated to Henry P. Hill ($12,000 to $18,000). An 1854 letter by Moses Walker to his mother, enslaved on another plantation, describes his living conditions and the recent birth—and death—of his child; it carries an estimate of $12,000 to $18,000.

Also available is an archive of letters, 1791-1800, by members of the Washington Abolition Society concerning the kidnapping of a freed man named John Davis, who was forcibly brought from his adopted home in Pennsylvania to a plantation in Virginia. The case led to the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 ($10,000 to $15,000). The first letter by David Ruggles to come to auction urges the establishment of a Committee of Vigilance in Syracuse, NY to aid fugitives on the Underground Railroad. The organization would contribute to central New York’s role as a major hub on the path to freedom. The 1838 manuscript letter carries an estimate of $6,000 to $9,000.

200 years after his birth, a rich selection of material relating to Frederick Douglass is a testament to his legacy. Six letters by the abolitionist to his friend Ebenezer Bassett during his 1890-91 tenure as consul-general to Haiti, concerning race relations and his fatigue, among other things, are together expected to bring $10,000 to $15,000. Another highlight is a signed cabinet card featuring the photograph used as the frontispiece of his third autobiography, circa 1879 ($10,000 to $15,000). The only known complete copy of the Farewell Song of Frederick Douglass, on Quitting England for America, 1847, by Julia and T. Powis Griffiths, makes its first appearance at auction, with an estimate of $5,000 to $7,500. Also available is an 1848 issue of The North Star ($8,000 to $12,000) and various letters.

Unusual offerings include a pair of patriotic slippers said to be made by legendary seamstress Elizabeth Keckley in 1865 for cabinet member Gideon Welles, carrying an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000.

An autograph letter signed by Malcolm X in 1950 bears one of the earliest examples of his usage of that moniker. Written to Elijah Mohammed of the Nation of Island, the missive reveals his early enthusiasm and curiosity for Islam ($20,000 to $30,000).

Material from the Civil Rights Movement includes a previously unknown poster for an appearance by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Paris while on a fundraising tour for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1966, estimated at $2,500 to $3,500. As the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination on April 4, 1968 approaches, two Memphis Sanitation Worker’s strike placards reading Honor King: End Racism! remain relevant.

A possibly unique album of aerial photographs of the historic march on Montgomery, taken by the Imagery Interpretation Section of the 11th Air Assault Division, the army unit tasked with protecting the marchers, shows final preparations in place the day before the march in addition to images of the marchers ($3,000 to $4,000).

New findings clarify information behind iconic portraits of Black Panther co-founder Huey P. Newton. A poster of the famous image of Newton in a wicker peacock chair is estimated at $4,000 to $6,000—the first signed and inscribed copy ever to come to auction. The date commonly given to the piece, captioned The Racist Dog Policemen Must Withdraw Immediately from our Communities, is 1967 or ‘68; however, another photograph ($500 to $750) of Newton taken in 1967 shows the image behind him, pushing the date of the better-known poster back to 1966-67.





Today's News

March 13, 2018

Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU premieres photographs of the Hongkew Ghetto

The J. Paul Getty Museum presents "Rembrandt and the Inspiration of India"

'Little black dress' designer Hubert de Givenchy dies aged 91

Climate protest prompts partial evacuation at Louvre

Historical Fenix warehouse in Rotterdam preserved

Recently discovered Manzoni for sale at Bernaerts Auctioneers in Antwerp

Met Opera sacks legendary conductor Levine after abuse probe

Contemporary Fine Arts Berlin opens exhibition of works by Georg Herold

Russian theatre titan Oleg Tabakov dies

Art Institute of Chicago appoints Melinda Watt as the new Chair and Christa C. Mayer Thurman Curator of Textiles

Glenstone Museum expansion to open October 4

National Museum of Women in the Arts celebrates acquisition of two works by Mildred Thompson

Sotheby's appoints Nicolas Chow as Chairman, Asia

Palais de Tokyo commissions Neil Beloufa to create 'The Enemy of my Enemy'

A lost masterpiece from the Qianlong Era to make its auction debut

Prominent artists donate works to benefit the Studio Museum's new building project

Race is on to save historic Sunderland building

Over 300 disadvantaged youth involved in nationwide art initiative

Refocused opening days pay dividends for exhibitors at TEFAF Maastricht 2018

Historic accounts & signed material at Swann African Americana Auction

Ottocento Art Gallery to offer a remarkable view of Ostend hippodrome painted by Carlo Brancaccio

KAWS artworks hit five-figure prices in Urban Art Auction

Wendy Yu endows lead curatorial position at The Costume Institute

Modern and Contemporary African art to be offered at Sotheby's London

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