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Swann presents important artifacts from African American history

Rare and historic artifacts from African American history will cross the auction block at Swann in New York later this month.
Leading the sale are two typed manuscripts written by Malcolm X in 1957, shortly after the Hinton Johnson incident in New York brought him to national attention.

Having prevented a riot in Harlem following the brutal police beating of Hinton Johnson, a Nation of Islam member, Malcolm X wrote these two articles for the Los Angeles Herald Dispatch.

The articles were originally published in a series entitled God’s Angry Men, which sought to offer people without hope the solace of Islam.

Signed by Malcom X and featuring his hand-written annotations, the two documents are estimated to sell for $200,000 – $300,000.

Another notable highlight is a Civil War-period carte-de-visite album, featuring a previously unknown photograph of abolitionist Harriet Tubman, along with a unique portrait of John Willis Menard, the first black man elected to the United States Congress.

One of the rarest items of the auction is a 19th century copper badge worn by a slave in the American South.

During the period slave owners often ‘rented out’ their slaves, and these badges were worn as a means of identification when they were working away from their owners’ plantations.

Charleston and Charleston Neck were the only two regions in which the tags were used. Made by Charleston silversmith John Joseph Lafar, and dating from 1824, the original copper badge is amongst the rarest relics from the era of slavery and is estimated at $8,000 – $12,000.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is a piece of memorabilia linking two of the most iconic black performers of the 20th century: Michael Jackson and James Brown.

The silver sequinned cape was presented by Jackson to Brown on-stage at the 2003 BET Awards, during a performance in which the two stars shared a brief dance-off to the delight of the crowd. Authenticated by Danny Ray, who served as James Brown’s ‘cape man’ for more than 40 years, the cape is estimated to sell for $25,000 – $35,000.

Further highlights from the sale include original placards worn by striking sanitation workers in Memphis during marches with Martin Luther King; and an important handwritten letter by social reformer, abolitionist and statesman Frederick Douglas.

The Swann Auction Galleries sale of Printed and Manuscript African Americana takes place in New York on March 30.

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