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. The print was titled, "Pastime in Dixie". My
first thought, why cotton. I noticed her torn straw hat, and the fact she was too young to be playing a banjo and her 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 made stayed with me). After visiting a couple of other antique shops, we did not see anything, we traveled to another
small city close by. That's 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. That day, I
became a Black Americana collector! Nineteen years later, I am still collecting and I collected more Black Americana Wish
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 wasn't only convenient, it gave me opportunities to collect artifacts from around the county and
the world. My collection is not an investment. I collect to preserve America’s history and hopefully open up dialogs
America so 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 we 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 the good, bad, and ugly, there is a chance it may assist in America's healing.
shared my collection with several high schools in my area. Some high schools I traveled to, Bellermine College Preparatory,
Mitty High School, Oakgrove High School, Aragon High School, Branham High School, Mission High School, and Menlo
Atherton High School. I’ve spoke at colleges in my area, Bethany University, San Jose City College, San Jose
State University, and Menlo College. I spoke at several organizations (in my area). Examples of organizations where I spoke
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.
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 being
In 2004 a local newspaper wrote an article about the collection and me. 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.
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 store owner said he
never displayed the paperweights because they made him uncomfortable. I asked his selling price. He said he couldn't display
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 "white" lady 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. In 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. It is a honor to have 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.
Shortly after retiring from Lockheed Martin (as a
Computer Technician) I stopped displaying my collection at museums and libraries. My 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 have 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 will 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 help start-up the dialog America needs to heal.
Owner and Curator of Black Legacy Images