Prints & Manuscripts African Americana at Swann on March 24

Martin Luther King, Why We Can’t Wait, warmly inscribed to civil rights lawyer Jack Greenberg, New York, 1964. Estimate $20,000-30,000.

New York-Swann Galleries Thursday, March 24 sale The African American and Printed Manuscripts Sale will showcase important material from slavery through the Civil Rights era and up to the present day.

Featured are a series of items from the collection of the late Jack Greenberg. After succeeding founder and mentor Thurgood Marshall, Greenberg served as director-attorney of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund from 1961 to 1984. While working under Marshall, he helped litigate numerous civil rights cases before the Supreme Court and elsewhere, especially Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. After 1984, Greenberg served as dean and professor at Columbia.

Highlights of the offering include a first edition of Martin Luther King1964 book Why we can’t wait, in which King looks back on his 1963 Birmingham campaign. This copy is being auctioned warmly inscribed at Greenberg – “in recognition of your formidable legal capacity, your genuine humanitarian concern, and your unwavering devotion to the principles of liberty and justice, Martin.” Greenberg and the DFL had represented King while he was in Birmingham jail and helped secure his release. The book is expected to fetch between $20,000 and $30,000. Also of note is a signed and autographed photograph by Thurgood Marshall ($5,000-$7,500) and a 1955 letter signed by J. Edgar Hoover as director. from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to Thurgood Marshall writes following the murder of Emmett Till ($2,000-3,000).

Anna Julia Cooper, Voice of the South, by a Black Woman of the South, Xenia, OH, 1892. Estimate $4,000-6,000.

Notable literature includes such iconic pieces as Benjamin Banneker’s First Almanac of 1792 ($15,000-25,000); Anna Julia Cooperit’s A Southern Voice, by a Southern Black Woman, 1892 ($4,000-6,000); and the important third edition, second state of Frederick Douglass Account of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American slave, written by himself—bound and published by Douglass in his North Star Press ($20,000-30,000).

An extensive archive of Louis Armstrong, with material dating from 1950-1970, including signed contracts, travel itineraries ($6,000-9,000), is offered alongside other groundbreaking musicians, including an original copy of 1911 from Scott Joplin’s score for Treemonisha: Opera in three acts ($4,000-6,000) and various flyers for 1980s-1990s musical acts, including Salt-N-Pepa ($1,000-1,500) and OutKast ($1,200-1,800).

Several significant lots relating to Negro baseball, both Negro leagues and much earlier, are featured. Of note are the earliest known photographs of black ballplayers in action, dating to around 1871 ($3,000-4,000); and a rare full supply of Our Sportsfive issues from 1953, which saw Jackie Robinson as editor ($800-1,200).

Jackie Robinson, a complete series from Our Sports, 1953. Estimate $800-$1,200.

Exhibit hours are noon to 5 p.m. March 21-23. The live online auction platforms will be the Swann Galleries app, Invaluable and Live Auctioneers. The full catalog and auction information is available at and the Swann Galleries app.

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