Swann’s African Americana sale handily surpasses estimates

African Americana sale

Sun Ra in ‘Space is the Place’ movie poster, circa 1974. Sold for $6,500

NEW YORK – Swann Auction Galleries’ Printed & Manuscript African Americana auction on May 7 totaled $741,581 for the 399 lots with an 89% sell-through rate by lot. It was the company’s first live online auction. Absentee and Internet live bidding was available through LiveAuctioneers.

The top item in the sale was an 1848 letterpress broadside announcing a $250 reward for the return of three runaway slaves, sisters who were house servants for a prominent silversmith from Georgetown, District of Columbia. The 11¾-by-9½-inch broadside sold for $37,500. Prices include the buyer’s premium.

African Americana sale

Letterpress broadside announcing a reward for the return of three African American sisters, slaves from the District of Columbia. Price realized: $37,500. Swann Auction Galleries image

A small photograph of a black family at Point Lookout, Maryland, where many slaves fled during the war, sold for $32,500. The albumen photo was taken by Lafayette V. Newell, a New Hampshire photographer who during the war established himself at the large Union military base in Point Lookout. Numerous African American families, having escaped from slavery in nearby Virginia, streamed into Point Lookout and other Union camps, where they were declared free as “contraband of war.”

African Americana sale

Lafayette V. Newell photo of a ‘contraband family,’ at Point Lookout, Maryland, circa 1863-65, 3½ by 2in. Price realized: $32,500. Swann Auction Galleries image

A Night-Club Map of Harlem by E. Simms Campbell and featured in the inaugural issue of Manhattan: A Weekly for Wakeful New Yorkers (Jan. 18, 1933), sold for $27,500.

African Americana sale

E. Simms Campbell, ‘A Night-Club Map of Harlem,’ 1933. Price realized: $27,500. Swann Auction Galleries image

A copy of the 17th annual Afro Travel Guide published by the Travel Bureau, Afro-American Newspapers, Baltimore, Maryland, brought $27,500. The cover price for the 36-page booklet was 25 cents. It competed with the well-known Negro Motorist’s Green Book. It lists more than a thousand hotels and other businesses “providing accommodations for the colored traveler” in addition to numerous advertisements.

African Americana sale

Scarce ‘Afro Travel Guide,’ printed pamphlet, 1957. Price realized: $27,500. Swann Auction Galleries image

A March for Freedom Now! poster that was printed for a protest at the 1960 Republican Convention sold for $17,500. More than 5,000 marchers including Martin Luther King, A. Philip Randolph and Roy Wilkins demanded a conference with the Republican National Committee and a civil rights plank in the party platform.

African Americana sale

A rare ‘March for Freedom Now!’ poster from the protest at the 1960 Republican Convention, 28 x 22 in. Price realized: $17,500. Swann Auction Galleries image

An early dorm room version of the original I Am a Man protest poster used in the days before Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968 sold for $6,500. The lithographer is credited as “Tea Lautrec.”

African Americana sale

‘I Am a Man,’ Memphis dorm poster, Martin Luther King, 1968, 28 x 22in. Price realized: $6,500. Swann Auction Galleries image

Additional highlights included:

– Papers of the comedian Nipsey Russell (1929-2000) including a personal letter from Martin Luther King, $17,500.

– ‘Colored Waiting Room,’ metal sign, 1950s, $15,000.

– Abraham Lincoln, ‘The Proclamation of Emancipation,’ seventh printed edition and the only one in separate pamphlet form, 1862, $11,875.

– Archive of photographs of boxing champion Joe Louis, collected by his manager Julian Black, circa 1935-1945 and 1970s, $11,875.

View top auction results on LiveAuctioneers here: https://www.liveauctioneers.com/pages/recent-auction-sales/