September 25, 2023

Preserving Black History Through Heartfelt Collectibles

By: Jennifer Magdalene

Photo Credit: Skylar Yang

It is absolutely crucial that black history in the USA is preserved, especially as the diversity and inclusion of black people comes under attack. Measures are underway across the country at a local level, including the recent vote to preserve a site of segregation in New York, as profiled by NBCBLK. While these memories can be painful, they are absolutely necessary, both to provide life to the rich tapestry of black American history and, hopefully, to remind the next generation of where those who came before went wrong. There is also a role in the home, however, and keeping the flame of black culture alive by retaining cultural keepsakes in the home is a worthwhile one.

Coin tradition

There is a long history in the USA of preserving history on coins. The sturdy nature of metal means that it will last far longer than the current lifetime; indeed, coins have long been a clue for archaeologists in establishing the nature of the ancient culture. Coins as a store of cultural history are created in a couple of main ways. The most common is through the minting of historical figures on everyday tender. 2022 saw the Mint create a brilliant image of the late Maya Angelou, depicted with her arms uplifted against a rising sun. Less common, but very crucial, is the collectible gold coin set, which acts both as a way to retain wealth for a family and as a chance to mint images and culture into a solid medium.

A history of protest

CN Traveler highlights shops such as BLK MKT Vintage, an online business that sells signs, designs, and clothes from the Civil Rights era. NAAP parade float signs are particularly popular, given their vintage look and feel. These are particularly important collectible items given the history of protest in the black movement of the USA, and can provide a really Americana flavor to the home, too. Things that can be proudly displayed are as much a proponent of history as anything else.

Courting controversy

There has been an uptick in collectors holding on to racist memorabilia in recent years – and not just in the USA, but across the water in the UK, too. It is debatable whether people not impacted by the nature of racist lawmaking and its legacy should own these items, but what about black Americans? As PBS highlights, this is an area of fierce discussion, with some people believing that racist collectibles should be consigned to the garbage. Elsewhere, though, there is a view that black people holding onto these items is empowering and serves as a potent reminder of the past, while at the same time taking ownership and reclaiming these items.

For the average black American, a few collectibles can be a good way to tie into their past and also put today in context. It has been a tumultuous and exploitative history for black Americans, but one full of culture and joy, too. These items preserve that past, and put it out, loud and proud.


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