Auctions | April 21, 2020

Swann Galleries’ Printed & Manuscript African Americana Rescheduled for May 7

Courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries

Early German-American anti-slavery broadside, Sclaven-Handel, Philadelphia, 1794. Estimate $12,000-18,000.

New York — Swann Galleries’ sale of Printed & Manuscript African Americana will take place on Thursday, May 7. The auction itself will be held live, remotely. While there will not be bidding in the room, Swann will be accepting order bids, and interested buyers will be able to participate live online via three different bidding platforms, including on the Swann Galleries App.

“We are delighted to be able to bring our Printed & Manuscript African Americana auction to the block. When Covid-19 forced us to postpone some of our spring sales, we spent time figuring out the best way to continue delivering to our clients the exceptional material for which Swann is known. We are confident that in our virtual salesroom, we will be able to provide the exceptional Swann service which our bidders and consignors have come to expect over our 78 years of operation,” noted Nicholas D. Lowry, Swann president.

Highlights from the sale include family papers of the distinguished Ruby-Jackson family of Portland, Maine. The collection includes material from five generations dating from 1853 to 1961, with items from an Underground Railroad conductor, a Tuskegee Airman, as well as a state senator in Reconstruction Texas. The archive is expected to bring $3,000 to $4,000. Further family papers include those of Dora Stephens and her family who were enslaved in the household of Confederate Vice President Alexander Hamilton Stephens in Crawfordsville, Georgia, and who continued working there after abolition. The small archive features 19 items with correspondence and family photographs dating from 1866 to 1907, and is estimated at $25,000 to $35,000.

Among other items related to slavery and abolition is a scarce, early illustrated German-American anti-slavery broadside, printed in 1794 in Philadelphia by Tobias Harte. Likely the first American effort to disseminate powerful images that would remain an important part of anti-slavery iconography for decades, it is expected to cross the block at $12,000 to $18,000.

Notables of pop culture feature throughout the sale. Highlights include comedian Julius “Nipsey” Russell with a large archive featuring photographs and letters from 1929–2000, with a personal letter from Martin Luther King, Jr., signed by his secretary, thanking him for performing at the culmination of the Selma-to-Montgomery march ($6,000-9,000). E. Simms Campbell’s A Night-Club Map of Harlem, as featured in the inaugural issue of Manhattan: A Weekly for Wakeful New Yorkers, 1933, present in its original wrappers, illustrates the heart of African-American culture during the Harlem Renaissance ($10,000-15,000).

Letters from artist Romare Bearden to longtime friend and collaborator Harry Henderson are among artist-related items. Dating from 1949 to 1987, the letters offer a rare insight into the vision of an important American artist, estimated at $5,000 to $7,500. Also of note is a poster for an exhibition at the Weusi-Nyumba Ya Sanaa Gallery in Harlem Cookin’ and Smookin’: Where We At, Black Women Artists, 1972, which included works by Faith Ringgold, Ann Tanksley and Dindga McCannon, among others. The poster is expected to bring $600 to $900.

A run of Black Power posters includes several firsts at auction with Power to the People, 1970, printed by Gemini Rising ($800-1,200); Black Art, 1970, by Charles Bible with a poem by Amiri Baraka, credited as LeRoi Jones ($500-750); and Power to the People Time, Now, 1971, printed by Lonmill Industries ($800-1,200). 

While current restrictions will not allow for in-person examination of the material, Swann Galleries staff will prepare condition reports and provide additional photographs of material on request. Live online bidding platforms available will be the Swann Galleries App, Invaluable, and Live Auctioneers. The complete catalogue and bidding information is available at and on the Swann Galleries App.

Additional highlights can be found here.