As the midday rush on an exhibition floor at the Swann Auction Galleries in Manhattan cooled earlier this week, curator Wyatt Houston Day floated around the place like a bespectacled, gray-haired dervish.
He bounced from a mounted elephant tusk pulled from the bowel of a sunken 16th Century slave ship, to a classic poster of the Black Panther Huey P. Newton sitting on a fan-backed wicker chair with a rifle in one hand and a spear in the other. He swung over to the far side of the room and reached up high on a bookshelf and pulled down a behemoth of an old book, a family “slave bible,” circa 1834, with page after page detailing births and deaths of the family’s many slaves.
“This one is a major star,” said Day, grabbing a rare autographed copy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s first published book, “Stride Toward Freedom,” from behind a glass display case. He flipped open its front cover as the glint of a smirk tugged at the corners of his wrinkled cheeks, and revealed a little treasure: an inscription from King to the book’s recipient, fellow Civil Rights icon A. Phillip Randolph.
“In appreciation of the standards of loyalty, honesty, non-violence and the will to endure that you have held before all people in the struggle for freedom, justice and democracy,” Day read aloud, slow and measured.
The hint of a smirk broke into a full-on grin. “This is major, major stuff,” Day said.
If all goes well today, most of these items will be gone, sold to the highest bidder.
Day, a collector and appraiser of antiquities, is the curator of Swann Galleries’ annual auction of African Americana, historical artifacts relevant to the black experience in America, which he first brought to the gallery 17 years ago. By all accounts, this is the Super Bowl of African Americana. Experts in the field said no other auction in the country offers such an expansive collection of rare African-American material.
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SOURCE: The Huffington Post