Swann’s Printed & Manuscript African Americana Sale Brings $744k
New York — Swann Galleries’ Thursday, May 7 sale of Printed & Manuscript African Americana was held live online and was conducted remotely. “This was a strong auction regardless of the circumstances. The sale concluded with 90% of lots finding buyers, a record in this category at Swann, and a total of $744,112, well above high estimate. Institutions generally make a good showing in these African Americana auctions, but they did exceptionally well in this sale, picking up the top four lots, and a total of 11 of the top 20,” noted Rick Stattler, the house’s Americana specialist.
Leading the sale was an annotated 1848 letterpress broadside advertising for a reward for three young women who had escaped from slavery. The announcement was won by an institution for $37,500, a record for a broadside of the same nature. Also from the slavery and abolition era came the only pamphlet edition of The Proclamation of Emancipation, seventh printed edition, 1862, which sold for $11,875.
Posters were one of the most popular categories in the sale. Civil Rights-era posters included March for Freedom Now!, 1960, printed for a protest at the 1960 Republican Convention, which brought $17,500; Come Let Us Build a New World Together, circa 1963, utilizing a photograph by Danny Lyon featuring congressman John Lewis, then a 22-year-old Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee organizer, was won for $7,250, a record for the poster; and I Am a Man, Memphis, 1968, a dorm room version of the original protest poster used in the days before Dr. King’s assassination, brought a record for the poster at $6,500. Sun Ra in “Space is the Place,” circa 1974, a movie poster for the Afrofuturist science fiction film featuring the experimental Jazz musician Sun Ra, garnered a record for the image at $6,500.
The pamphlet 17th Year Afro-American’s Travel Guide, 1957, a competitor of the famous Negro Motorist’s Green Book, went to an institution for $27,500 over a $1,200 high-estimate after rigorous back-and-forth bidding. A 1950s metal sign denoting a colored waiting room from Alabama, brought a record the category at $15,000.
Additional items of note included E. Simms Campbell’s A Night-Club Map of Harlem, featured in the inaugural issue of Manhattan: A Weekly for Wakeful New Yorkers, 1933, which brought $27,500; papers of the comedian Napsey Russel, which included a personal letter from Martin Luther King, brought $17,500; and 44 issues of The Black Panther Community News Service brought $6,500, a record for copies of the publication.
"We are grateful for the confidence placed in us by our consignors, and for the patience of our community of collectors as we completely redesigned how we conduct our auctions. The results are nothing short of phenomenal, and a testament to Swann's resilient and creative team,” concluded Stattler of the sale.
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