Black Americana is the phrase that is used to describe those that collect black memorabilia or ephemera that relates to African American history. Earlier pieces produced in Europe will commonly be referenced as "blackamoores"or "blackamores" produced as early as the 13th century. This area of collecting has become popular since the 1970's as Americans have desired to collect this historical memorabilia. There are two sides to everything and some will say this blog post is inappropriate and that these items should not be collected at all as they have a negative and derogatory connotation. I reside on the side that wants to remember even the worst aspects of our history as to ensure they are never repeated. After all, even the bad parts of our history have made us what we are today as a country and it is perhaps an injustice to those that lived during this time to simply ignore what they had to endure.
Nearly half of all collectors are African American themselves. With the increase in awareness and the number of collectors driven by even the rich and famous like Oprah Winfrey, Whoopie Goldberg and others who have acquired huge collections the prices for these collectibles continue to rise as they continue to be very sought after. Black Americana memorabilia ranges from pieces with very negative depictions to those that are more wholesome like the infamous Aunt Jemima. Aunt Jemima, known for her endearing matronly and jovial nature was replicated on many pieces from cookie canisters to spice sets, dish towels, tea tins, etc. during the 1930's through the 50's. During this time pieces were also made that documented our history and achievements commemorating civil rights events and advancements in our history and ways of thinking all of which are considered very collectible today. There were many advertising pieces also produced and companies like F & F, known as Fiedler & Fiedler Mold & Die Works, made many sets like the one shown in this blog post.
As always due to how popular these pieces have become there have been many fakes produced. If you decide to begin a collection of your own, always remember to do your homework and buy from a reputable dealer or study before you buy. A collection should be something you enjoy. For many, and myself included, part of collecting is enjoying the knowledge you gain from learning about our history which black ephemera is sure to teach you.
I'm curious what others think of collecting black ephemera? Feel free to type your comments and share.
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