African American History Month presents a challenge for readers and teachers of American literature, for keepers of the American musical heritage – and for antique collectors and dealers. Julie Gubbin, owner of Antiquified*, can tell the stories.
Julie’s shop in Northeast Minneapolis collects and sells Black Americana Antiques, a selection of which is posted on the shop’s website. On a routine basis she faces severe criticism pitted against the voracious buying habits of customers who are ardent collectors of the genre.
In an article posted on the Antiquified website entitled “To preserve or not to preserve” Virginia Broich describes the dilemma: “Usually nobody objects to preserving history, but collectors of black Americana are divided over the issue.” The More Than McCoy website, cited by Broich, expands on the controversy:
Black Americana or Memorabilia refers to a variety of items relating to African Americans, dating back to the early days of slavery. Most of these items depicted African Americans in a prejudicial, stereotypical, and derogatory manner, especially from the 1900’s to the 1950’s. However, public outrage during the 1960’s along with the Civil Rights Movement, brought this practice to a halt. Today, Black Memorabilia is considered highly collectible, and is a reminder of America’s not so pleasant past.
Picture Aunt Jemima cookie jars, Gold Dust Twins washing powder, African Americans picking cotton and a host of images generally unrecognizable by all but the more mature.. Then picture 21st collectors scrambling to locate and purchase those same relics of a bygone day.
Consider the view of Julie’s husband, Ira Sims, an African American who collects, buys and sells African Americana. Broich quotes Sims’ observations on the displays at Antiquified: “There’s nothing in this case that defines me. The typical stereotypes – big lips, big eyes – are derogatory, but a McCoy cookie jar in the shape of a mammy is part of black Americana” Sims adds that “Black Americana tells a story of where we were and where we are now. It is to be shared. We cannot act like it never existed. If we did, we would be missing a large part of our history and culture.”
Black Americana is a unique focus of Antiquified featured here as a special resource spotlighted during African American History Month. Antiquified is a “full-service” antique shop, located for the past six years in the Alamo Building, which is itself an antique. Once the home of the Imperial Tractor Company, the Alamo Building was nicknamed by Northeast locals who noted its obvious physical resemblance to the San Antonio landmark. The building is evolving as a major destination for a mix of creative enterprises including Nimbus Theatre, the Wood Carvers Store & School and Gaytee Stained Glass.
Antiquified is in the Alamo Building, 1519 Central Avenue NE, in Northeast Minneapolis. Contact Antiquified at 612 789 1989 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Owner Julie Gubbin, who ought to know, says the name was inspired by Tigger who uses the wonderful construction on one of her kids’ videos. Though it may not be original AA Milne, it is a very Tiggerish sort of word.