Event Brings Black Collectibles, Artifacts to Washington

The Black Memorabilia, Art and Doll Show and Sale brought dozens of vendors and educational exhibits to the Washington, D.C., Convention Center.

Held for the first time in Washington, the event featured a wide range of collectibles, artwork and artifacts.

Kwame Clay, a mixed media artist from Cincinnati,displayed his handmade jewelry, figurines and paintings. He said events like these give black artists a venue to present their work.

“You get an audience that’s more appreciative of black art than usual,” Clay said.

Marilyn Mapp had already purchased a book and two T-shirts and was excitedly perusing the booths for a doll to add to her collection.

“It’s wonderful,” Mapp said of the show. “This is a great place to do Christmas shopping because you find stuff you can’t find anywhere else. It’s culturally relevant and educational.”

Another shopper, Robbye Apperson, purchased a doll resembling Harriet Tubman and a copy of a May 1777 newspaper with an ad for the sale of a young male slave.

“I’ve gotten such a respect for how the artists and historians have commemorated the history of our people,” Apperson said.

The event also included appearances by Tuskegee Airmen Curtis Christopher Robinson and Col. Charles McGee, as well as Negro League baseball players like James Tillman of the Homestead Grays and Mamie “Peanut” Johnson of the Indianapolis Clowns.

Barbara McCracken of Summerville, S.C., gave patrons a history lesson with her “Not Just a Hoe” exhibit. It featured African-American arts, crafts and artifacts dating back to the 18th century, including a mop made of corn shucks and a slave’s bed.

“The reason I named the exhibit ‘Not Just a Hoe’ is that I can’t stand the negative version applied to our African-American women,” McCracken said.

She added that many of the items were recovered from an elderly man who was ashamed of the slave quarters on his property and wanted to burn it down.

Husband and wife J. Justin and Gwen Ragsdale of Philadelphia brought their traveling collection of slavery artifacts and Jim Crow memorabilia entitled “Lest We Forget.” The display included slave hardware and other artifacts that J. Justin Ragsdale began collecting when he was 17.

“We want our young people to understand that a price was paid for our freedom today,” Gwen Ragsdale said.

She said visitors’ reactions to the exhibit ranged from anger to wonderment.

“As African Americans, we came to America as slaves,” she said. “Like it or not, this is our history. We didn’t come on the Mayflower.”