Black Americana

     The past must be remembered ...



Black Americana is often referred to as Black Memorabilia, Afro-Americana, and Black Face Collectibles, but they are all terms referring to  collectibles having an African- American theme - generally produced from the 1900s up to the 1950s.  These items can be very offensive, but they represent a historical record of our past.  Hopefully, by seeing them again we might remember how our country over-came the past and how times have changed. 

Many people will condemn this page - probably the same Memphis group who denied Civil War history when they changed the names of Memphis Confederate Park, Forrest Park, and Jefferson Davis Park.  But as offensive as these items are, they too were part of our history.

This period of history must be remembered.  Philosopher George Santayana said it best, "Those who cannot remember the past are destined to repeat it."


Click on small photos to see an enlargement



Certain areas of collecting are often hard to understand.  Black memorabilia is collected for many different reasons by people of all races and nationalities. Not all Black Americana collections have a negative connotation nor are they amassed due to bigotry. Many uplifting aspects of African-American culture can also be incorporated into a collection.  Black Americana consistently falls into one of these difficult to fathom categories, especially when dealing with items produced from the '20s through the '50s which consistently stereotyped African-Americans.  The derogatory nature of these items reflects a very different time in American history when it was acceptable to have black stereotypes not only in the home, but everywhere.   


Documents and artifacts which reflect the history of slavery are very  important in this field of collecting, and one of the most difficult to discuss.  Some people feel very strongly that documents and items associated with slavery should never be sold, or displayed for any reason.  This website believes that ignoring the past is disrespectful to those who lived through the period of slavery, even though remembering it can be extremely painful.   Still, we must remember that an entire war was fought over the slavery issue on American soil. It is engrained in our history, right or wrong, and at some point in our lives we are all obligated to learn about it as American citizens.  Choosing to collect slavery related items or Civil War memorabilia with a slavery bent is a very personal decision, but itís not necessarily  a reflection of character and we need to remember that.

Slave Ad

1850 Slave Ad

N. B. Forrest Slave Ad

Slave Iron Collar


1849 Slave Ad

1852 Slave tags

1862 Slave Sale...

How does one begin to collect Black Memorabilia? 

If a general collection seems too derogatory for you, then narrow your selection to a more acceptable area.  As many of the items below indicate, it need not be offensive.  And a good place to begin it to visit  eBay or type "black americana" into any search box.

US Magazine

1940 Jubilee Prog

Life Magazine

1926 Manassas Report Card

1917 Kortrecht Diploma

Postcards are the number one "collectible" -  Still reasonable, but as they become scarce, the prices continue to rise.







1930 Cotton Harvest                 




Weighing Coton 1912

Memphis Landing 1932

1948 1909 1902 Souvenir


1933 racist postcard

1913                           ---

1913 On the Levee

1908 Cotton Blossom Black Americana Cotton
Photography is a close second...

Atlanta Slave Market

"Colored" Hotel

Blacks pull floats

White - Colored Fountains

No Whites Allowed

Same Photo - 2 different Captions

Robert Church Family

Amos 'n Andy

Vintage Signs are becoming more difficult to find. There are also a lot of conterfeits.

Advertising or products with the "N" word are rare and are among the hardest items to find...


This was a popular licorice candy.


The easiest items to find and least expensive are the small ceramics - especially the salt and pepper shakers...



Ash Tray

and Dolls, Advertising, Snow Globes, greeting cards, Mammy items, spoons, etc...





Pancake Mix

Greeting cards

Souvenir spoons         

Souvenir spoon


Souvenir spoon


Souvenir spoon

Toothpick holders Skillet   Male Doll Doll


Cookie Jar


Ash Tray

Greeting card

Snow Globe


Bobble Heads Cast Iron Banks

To be complete, any well-balanced collection of Black Memorabilia will show the good and the bad, the painful and the positive.   Believe it or not,  nearly half of the growing number of collectors of Black Americana are black.  These same collectors once considered mammy dolls and other black-related items to be racist- but now they are collecting these materials as a reminder of a period in American history that many consider very painful.

There are also many blacks who are angered by what they perceive as the exploitation of these items by whites.  Some say they've become collectors themselves simply to keep these items out of the hands of whites.  Other blacks worry that in digging up the past, blacks may subject themselves to further humiliation or racial prejudice.

However, interest in Black Americana continues to grow.. You can trace the demand for anything of an African American nature to Alex Haley's book "Roots" and to celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Bill Cosby, and Whoopi Goldberg, who have amassed huge collections of black memorabilia.  Average Americans who appreciate the historical and cultural significance of this type of memorabilia are also acquiring quality collections. This increased awareness, of course, has led to an escalation of prices of just about anything relating to African American history - and to numerous counterfeits.  





The Historic-Memphis website does not intentionally post copyrighted photos and material without permission or credit.  On occasion a "non-credited" photo might possibly be posted because we were unable to find a name to give credit.  Because of the nature of our non-commercial, non-profit, educational website, we strongly believe that these photos would be considered "Fair Use.  We have certainly made no monetary gain, although those using this website for historic or Genealogy research have certainly profited.  If by chance, we have posted your copyrighted photo, please contact us, and we'll remove it immediately, or we'll add your credit if that's your choice.  In the past, we have found that many photographers volunteer to have their works included on these pages and we'll  also do that if you contact us with a photo that fits a particular page. 


The "Historic-Memphis" website would like to acknowledge and thank the following for their contributions which helped make this website possible:  Memphis Public Library, Memphis University Library, Memphis Law Library, Memphis Commercial Appeal, Memphis Press Scimitar, Shelby County Register of Deeds, Memphis City Schools, Memphis Business Men's Club, Memphis Chamber of Commerce, Memphis City Park Commission, Memphis Film Commission, Carnival Memphis, Memphis Historical Railroad Page, Memphis Heritage Inc, Beale Street Historic District, Cobblestone Historic District, Memphis Historic Districts, Vance Lauderdale Family Archives, Tennessee State Archives, Library of Congress, Kemmons Wilson Family, Richard S. Brashier, Lee Askew, George Whitworth, Woody Savage and many individuals whose assistance is acknowledged on the pages of their contributions.  Special thanks to Memphis Realtor, Joe Spake, for giving us carte blanche access to his outstanding collection of contemporary Memphis photos.

We do not have high definition  copies of the photos on these pages.  If anyone wishes to secure high definition photos,  you'll have to contact the photographer  or the collector.  (To avoid any possibility of contributing to SPAM, we do not maintain a file of email addresses for anyone who contacts us).





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