Black Legacy Imgaes



Dawn Spears'Did You KnowGood Bad & HistoryYesteryears & TodayJim CrowToday & Yesterday


One day during a family vacation we stopped in an antique store where 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 was called, "Pastime in Dixie".  My first thought, why cotton. Next, I noticed her torn straw hat, and she seemed 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 did not know the history of the print) my husband purchased the print for me.

After purchasing "Pastime in Dixie", I wanted to explore other antique shops. After visiting other antique shops in the same 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 have 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. The main reason I collect is to preserve America’s history not as an investment.

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. As 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 of them assisting 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. The schools and organizations mentioned each gave me letters of their appreciation.

Another way, I shared what I collected and 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.

In 2004, a local newspaper wrote an article about the collection. After the article ran, I received correspondence from the paper's 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! Both 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 told me he never displayed the paperweights because they made him uncomfortable. I asked his selling price. He said, he was unable to display the Ku Klux Klan paperweights in his store and he does not want to make money on them. He mailed both paperweights to me. The last gift was a black doll given to me by a woman named Linda Michels. Linda hand delivered her doll. Later she sent me 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, went on to say, 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 special thank you note from then, Vice Mayor Patricia Dando.  More 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.

Shortly after retiring from Lockheed Martin (as a Computer Technician) I stopped speaking and displaying my collection at museums, schools and libraries. My knowledge continues to grow along with my collection. I only scratched the surface, there is so much more to learn and discover), although not as much to collect. My ultimate goal is to open a museum where I can display my collection. The museum would give me an opportunity to display some of the thousands of pieces I collected and share what I have learned from them. If/when the museum opens for business, there is a chance it will jump start dialogs America needs in order to heal. Although opening a museum is not in my immediate future I am proud to say, some of the pieces I donated to, "The National Museum of African American History and Culture", in Washington, D.C. are on display and some appear in their National Museum of African American History and Culture: A Souvenir Book, "This souvenir book showcases some of the most influential and important treasures of the National Museum of African American History and Culture's collections. These include a hymn book owned by Harriet Tubman; ankle shackles used to restrain enslaved people on ships during the Middle Passage; a dress that Rosa Parks was making shortly before she was arrested; a vintage, open-cockpit TuskegeeAirmen trainer plane; Muhammad Ali's headgear; an 1835 Bill of Sale enslaving a young girl named Polly; and Chuck Berry's Cadillac. These objects tell us the full story of African American history, of triumphs and tragedies and highs and lows. This book, like the museum it represents, uses artifacts of African American history and culture as a lens into what it means to be an American." 

Dawn Spears

Owner and Curator of Black Legacy Images