I started collecting Black Americana by accident. One day during
a family vacation we stopped in an antique store. My husband pointed to a print, hanging on the wall, of a caricature black
child playing a banjo, in front of her was a basket of cotton (see below). The print's is, "Pastime in Dixie".
My first thought, why cotton. Then, I noticed her torn straw hat, and she was too young to be playing a banjo. The young
girl's face looked worn for her age. Being a history buff, I wondered who would make such a print and why? After
talking about the print with my husband, and the owners of the antique store (who didn't know the history of the print) my
husband purchased the print for me.
After purchasing "Pastime in Dixie", I wanted to explore more antique
shops (why the picture was drawned and prints made stayed with me). After visiting a couple more antique shops in the town,
we did not see anything, so we traveled to another small city close by. That is where we came across a row of antique shops.
One of the first shops we entered had a Black Americana collectible book by, P. J. Gibbs, for sale. Not only was my questioned
answered, the book became my 'Wish Book'. The same day, I became a Black Americana collector! Nineteen years later, I am still
collecting and I collected more Black Americana wish books.
During my early collecting stages (there
are different levels of collecting) I spent a lot of time in antique shops. Then I discovered Internet antiquing. The Internet
became the primary way I added artifacts to my collection. The Internet was convenient, and gave me opportunities to collect
artifacts from around the country and the world. My collection is not an investment. I collect to preserve America’s
history and hopefully open up dialogs America despartely needs.
Until America openly discusses
a complete, honest and factual history, the wounds from slavery, Jim Crow, and other 'unsavory' historical events will remain
full of pus and will not completely heal. Like a wound filled with pus, America's wounds must be properly lanced, and allow
for a truthful flowing dialog. By sharing images of history's good, bad, and ugly, there is a chance it could assist
in America's healing.
I shared my collection with several high schools, in my area. Some high
schools I traveled to are, Bellermine College Preparatory, Mitty High School, Oakgrove High School, Aragon High School,
Branham High School, Mission High School, and Menlo Atherton High School. I spoke at colleges in my area, Bethany
University, San Jose City College, San Jose State University, and Menlo College. I also spoke at several organizations
some examples are, Mountain View Public Library, County of Santa Clara Juvenile Probation Department, City of Richmond, Santa
Clara County, and Lockheed Martin Corporation. Each school and organization mentioned gave me letters of appreciation.
Another way, I shared what I learned was by writing. I wrote articles for the defunct, ‘Black Memorabilia,
An African Americana Newsletter’. My column was titled, ‘Did You Know?". Each article, had a picture(s) of
the artifact I wrote about.
In 2004 a local newspaper wrote an article about the collection. After
the article ran I received correspondence from their readers. Some readers wanted to donate artifacts to the collection; others
asked if I was interested in purchasing Black Americana they had for sale, and others wanted to give me pieces they own.
I received three gifts that gave me Goosebumps! Two gifts were paperweights with a Ku Klux Klan member
inside fully dressed (in hateful attire) with a schoolhouse, an American flag, and the words, “KKK; One Country;
One School; One Flag. The storeowner said he never displayed the paperweights because they made him uncomfortable. I asked
his selling price. He said, he could not display Ku Klux Klan paperweights in his store and he does not want to make money
on them. He mailed both paperweights to me and did not charge me anything. The last gift was a black doll given to me by a
woman named Linda Michels. Linda hand delivered the doll. Later she sent an email explaining, who gave her the doll,
and why the doll was given to her. Linda's email explained, her mother gave her the doll, with the hope she would grow up
to love all people, regardless of their skin color. The email, she said her mother told her, if she learned to love the black
doll as a child, she might learn compassion for others as an adult. It is an honor, having Linda's childhood doll in my collection.
Reader's from the newspaper sent notes thanking me for sharing my collection. I received a thank
you note, from then Vice Mayor Patricia Dando. Most importantly, I received requests asking me to bring artifacts
and speak about America’s history. I spoke and traveled with my collection until mid-2000.
after retiring from Lockheed Martin (as a Computer Technician) I stopped speaking and displaying my collection at museums,
schools and libraries. This web site, is the current way I share African America's historical artifacts and history. My knowledge
continues to grow along with my collection. I only scratched the surface, there is so much more to learn, although not as
much to collect.
My ultimate goal is to open a museum where I can display my collection. I would
like to open the museum in my home state of Iowa or in San Jose, California, where I currently reside. Opening a museum would
give me an opportunity to display some of the thousands of pieces I collected and share what I have learn from the artifacts
with others. When the museum opens for business, hopefully it will jump start-up dialogs America needs to heal.
Owner and Curator
of Black Legacy Images