Black collectibles are items resembling or made by black people, often found in antique stores. Early items portrayed black people disparagingly, but later became more representational. Household items, Mammy piggy banks, and Little Black Sambo figures are popular among collectors. Some view collecting black memorabilia as a celebration of culture, while others see it as perpetuating discrimination.
Black collectibles are items of Americana that resemble a black person’s image or are made by a black person. A large selection of ethnic collectibles can often be found in antique stores. These vintage items include household items, postcards with African-American artwork or photos, mom stickers, memorabilia featuring famous black actors and musicians, and artwork created by black people. Some of these items were handcrafted and many were mass-produced.
Items featuring images of blacks were popular around 1880 through the late 1950s. Early black collectibles often portrayed black people disparagingly, with exaggerated features and postures intended to connote inferiority and laziness. As beliefs changed and African Americans became more accepted and welcomed into the mainstream, the way black people were depicted changed. The skin tones on these black collectibles have become lighter, the images of black women have become more subtle, and the items have transformed from derogatory to merely representational.
Images of Aunt Jemima and other representations of mom are prevalent in black America. Dolls, brooms, and household items often portrayed this stereotypical image of a black servant girl. Little Black Sambo is another figure commonly seen in black collectibles. Depictions of Little Black Sambo can be found in children’s storybooks, old record albums, postcards, and other items.
Household items are the most common black collectibles. These items include cookie jars, spoon rests, salt and pepper shakers, toothpick holders, and pitchers. Vintage tea towels, pot holders, jars, labels and signs featuring African Americans are also trendy among Black Americana collectors.
Mammy cast iron piggy banks are popular with fans of black collectibles. The stereotypical style of dress was depicted on these shores, and Mama often sported an apron and handkerchief. These banks are so popular that reproductions have been made that look like the original article. Buyers of black collectibles should be wary of reproductions sold as antiques and should learn to discern the difference.
Some people believe that black memorabilia is an insult and that collecting them helps to perpetuate the days of discrimination. Others appreciate them for their role in the story. Some prominent African Americans have been very open about their collections of Black memorabilia and view it as a celebration of their culture. Examining how African Americans have been depicted on various objects over the years can provide a fascinating journey into the history of the people and the country they live in.