Langdon Manor Books has issued their Catalog 18 of African Americana. Their focus is on what they call “the extraordinary history of the every day.” That expression is particularly applicable to African Americans as they have faced extraordinary challenges in their every day lives others do not have to contend with. This collection includes books, letters, photographs, newspapers, and other items pertaining to their lives. Family photos and letters generally are similar to those generated by others, but books and other publications usually involve the civil rights challenges they live with every day. Here are a few selections.
A. Folumbo I. DeWalt was a young Liberian who attended mission schools. He learned about America and determined to go there. He stowed away on a freighter, and then assisted the crew so as not to be put off the ship before arriving in America. He worked that summer and then entered Claflin University in South Carolina in the fall. It took seven years but he earned his B.S. degree. DeWalt wrote articles for missionary publications to pay for a return trip to Africa after graduation. He had an emotional reunion with his mother, but there was great sadness in learning that five of his six siblings had died. He then walked around the country, 300 miles he said, and learned about the difficulties in the villages. People came to him seeking cures for various diseases, but he was helpless, having no training. That led him to return to America, and in 1922, enter the medical program at Howard University. He then began giving lectures to various religious groups about his life. We learn about him in this memoir he had published in 1922, Folumbo: A Native African's Own Life Story. We do know that Folumbo received his degree as a Doctor of Dental Surgery from Howard in 1926, and he had earlier expressed a desire to return to Liberia to help the people, but otherwise the trail of his life fades away. Item 1. Priced at $1,600.
This is a story timely for today. The title is American Democracy Reborn, by African American writer John Paul Blair. Blair traveled around the country for his employer and looked to learn about the history of African Americans wherever he stopped. This book is about a boy who does the same after learning about slavery from an elderly uncle who had been a slave. In the first chapter, Blair explains, “Your people do not know the marvelous historic records of Africa – the land that gave them birth – because Caucasian writers omitted those facts from the American history text books.” He tells of that history in an attempt to instill pride in his people, so as “to disclose at least the idea of Africa's greatness to the millions of dark-skinned boys and girls who loathe the name of Africa; and to quicken the steps in building a world democracy for all people...” It is a timely message as some states and communities today seek to practically outlaw the teaching of Black history, labeling such teaching what they consider to be a derogatory term, “critical race theory.” This copy is inscribed by the author. Item 6. $2,500.
Item 43 is a collection of 51 letters from African Americans in Texas, 33 letters written to Cornelia McQueen Clack and three by her. She evidently had her share of suitors. Several such letters are found. In 1905, when she was 21, “Walter” writes, “you and I have had a good time together and I must never do nothing against you of course. You would not obey me and so I had to let you go. But I love you yet and I shall always love you. But I will have to get me a northern mama now because you would not obey your papa. I have found me a northern girl but I don't love her.” Good thing she didn't marry this heel. “Dandy” writes, “I did think of you so much today until I just got to drinking and I am almost drunk.” Another wise rejection. Gilbert Johnson tries to break through with this one, “What is it in the touch of your pen that carries such thrill and passion in its wake? How is it that your motive, pure and unimpaired, embodies itself so deep and mystifying in your letters, and yet so plain, so concise that my heart seems to bulge out in a passionate, devoting expansion of merited gratitude to you, to 'God,' to Nature and to the blessed little 'Cupid.'” Cornelia must have seen through the flowery prose as it wasn't him either. It wasn't until 1911 that she finally married Corrie Clark, though he may not have been a great choice either. They are separated, perhaps because he is working, when Cornelia, now with their baby, writes him, “My dear husband: What on earth is the matter with you, you haven't written us a line nor have you sent us a nickel. It looks like you sent us away to get rid of us. Are you sick or what can be the matter with you. I and baby are both sick you know we left home sick and are no better yet and what little change I had I used it to get baby some dresses. Now please tell me what to do.” It sounds like at the age of 37, she rushed in to marriage too soon. $2,500.
Next is Booker T. Washington, Builder of Civilization, published in 1916, the year after he died. The authors were Emmett J. Scott, Washington's personal secretary, and Lyman Beecher Stowe, grandson of Harriet Beecher Stowe. Washington was an educator, leader of the Tuskegee Institute. He was unquestionably the leading voice of the African American community at the turn of the twentieth century. He was a proponent of education for black children, with a particular emphasis on vocational education. He believed that obtaining skills that would allow these students to achieve financial success was the best way to improve their position in America. As such, he was willing to accept segregation and a lack of voting rights as he felt pushing such causes and angering whites would hurt their chances of advancement. As a result, later voices became critical of him, but his contemporaries, who understood their predicament, admired him. The book is common, but this copy contains the gift bookplate, “Compliments of Julius Rosenwald, Chicago.” Rosenwald was a self-made man who achieved enormous wealth. He started by selling goods to Sears, Roebuck, later becoming a major shareholder, President and Chairman. In those days, Sears was America's largest retailer, the Walmart and Amazon of its time, rather than the dying relic it is today. Rosenwald was a friend of Washington and donated generously to his cause, even long after Washington died. He was particularly concerned about raising up African Americans and shared Washington's belief in the power of education and vocational school. He was the Andrew Carnegie of black schools. Instead of funding libraries, he funded the building of schools for black children, almost 5,000 of them, mostly in the South. At one time, around one-third of African American children in America were educated in Rosenwald schools. Item 53. $500.
The National Urban League has been one of the premier civil rights organizations for many decades. It today provides educational services while helping underserved communities achieve economic self-reliance. Its aims are similar to those of Booker Washington though they are strong advocates for civil rights as well. They are active in 37 states. They go back to 1910 when two predecessor organizations merged to form what was then called the National League on Urban Conditions Among Negroes. Item 5 is their first annual report, for 1910-1911. It also expressed their goals going forward. They said, “The Negro must have leaders – intelligent, wise, trained leaders from his own ranks.” $1,850.