NEW YORK — Swann Galleries’ Thursday, March 24 sale of Printed Manuscript & African Americana will feature important material ranging from slavery through the civil rights era and into the current period. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
Featured is a run of items from the collection of the late Jack Greenberg. After succeeding founder and mentor Thurgood Marshall, Greenberg served as the Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund from 1961 to 1984. While working under Marshall, he helped argue numerous civil rights cases before the Supreme Court and elsewhere, most notably Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. After 1984, Greenberg served as a dean and professor at Columbia.
Highlights from the offering include a first edition of Martin Luther King’s 1964 book Why We Can’t Wait, in which King reflects on his 1963 Birmingham campaign. The present copy comes to auction warmly inscribed to Greenberg — “in appreciation for tremendous legal ability, your genuine humanitarian concern, and your unswerving devotion to the principles of freedom and justice, Martin.” Greenberg and the LDF had represented King while he was in the Birmingham jail and helped secure his release. The book is expected to bring $20,000-$30,000.
Also of note is a signed and inscribed photograph of Thurgood Marshall, estimated at $5,000-$7,500, and a 1955 letter signed by J. Edgar Hoover as the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to Thurgood Marshall, written in the wake of the murder of Emmett Till. Its estimate is $2,000-$3,000.
Noteworthy literature includes iconic cornerstone pieces such as Benjamin Banneker’s first almanac from 1792, estimated at $15,000-$25,000; Anna Julia Cooper’s A Voice from the South, by a Black Woman of the South, from 1892, estimated at $4,000-$6,000; and the important third edition, second state of Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself, bound and issued by Douglass at his North Star press. It carries an estimate of $20,000-$30,000.
Also on offer, estimated at $6,000-$9,000, is a substantial archive on Louis Armstrong, with material dating from 1950 to 1970, including signed contracts and travel itineraries. Additional material from groundbreaking musicians includes a 1911 original copy of Scott Joplin’s score for Treemonisha: Opera in Three Acts, estimated at $4,000-$6,000, and various flyers for musical acts from the 1980s to 1990s including Salt-N-Pepa and OutKast. These two are estimated at $1,000-$1,500 and $1,200-$1,800, respectively.
Several important lots relating to Black baseball, both from the Negro Leagues and much earlier, feature. Of note is the earliest known photographs of Black ballplayers in action, dating from circa 1871 and estimated at $3,000-$4,000; and a scarce complete offering of Our Sports — five issues from 1953, which had Jackie Robinson as their editor. The group is estimated at $800-$1,200.
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