Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Merry Black History Month to all, and to all a good night.

February is Black History Month, gentle readers! I learned today that this tradition started as long ago as 1926, though back then it was only Black History Week. It was expanded to a full month in 1976. (The U.S. Census Bureau has an amazingly helpful and interesting page (click here) that sums up the basic history of February as Black History Month, then provides a long list of statistics about Black education, families, income, jobs, and so on.)

One of the most Affordable and Interesting things around the shop these days are these stacks of "Ebony" magazine:

"Ebony" magazine debuted its first issue in 1946, and was soon followed by a sister magazine, "Jet". The publisher, John H. Johnson, said in an article profiling its history that

"Ebony" was founded to project all dimensions of the Black personality in a world saturated with stereotypes. We wanted to give Blacks a new sense of somebodiness, a new sense of self-respect. We wanted to tell them who they were and what they could do.

The project succeeded admirably, becoming a staple of magazine shelves everywhere. There was even a two-hour Thanksgiving TV special to celebrate "Ebony"'s 50th year.

Here, we have copies of "Ebony" from the 1960s, '70s and '80s. That's a real historical spread, and having so many issues to play with means you can find some great combinations:

At $7.50 apiece, it's even affordable to buy more than one issue -- which you'll certainly want to do once you see the stack in all its glory!

For the Collectors out there who already have every issue of "Ebony" and "Jet", we have a unique "Jet"-related item that witnesses one amazing intersection in Black history:

P.H. Polk was a Black photographer in the early 20th century; you can see some of his images on this site (click here). One of his most famous pictures was of Eleanor Roosevelt sitting in a plane that was being piloted by a Black Tuskegee Airman. That image was held up as a standard when the armed forces were struggling with the slings and arrows of integration.

This book is not only a beautiful compilation of P.H. Polk's work; it's a signed Limited Edition (number 621 of 1200). Ah, but not only is it a signed Limited Edition -- we've included two scarce P.H. Polk pamphlets, one of which is itself signed. But there's more! The book and pamphlet are inscribed from P.H. Polk to Bob Johnson, "a very fine person to know":

Bob Johnson was executive editor of "Jet", and this book was a treasured part of his estate. You can own it all -- pamphlets, signatures, the lot! -- for $600.00.

Our regular Jon showed me this week's Favorite, pleased by its recent political relevance:

Black Man in the White House: A Revealing Diary of the Eisenhower Administration by the first Negro Presidential Aide in History was written by E. Frederic Morrow, who served as Administrative Officer for Special Projects between 1955-1961. At a time when Chicago's own Senator Obama is making a historic bid at American leadership, this 1963 First Edition serves as a reminder of how far we've come. In the words of the dust jacket, Morrow was "the sole Negro on a White House staff whose civil-rights policy was paralyzed by overcaution, ineptitude, and indecision". It's really amazing to think about such a time ....

Mr. Obama keeps a house in Hyde Park; I wonder how he would feel, if he happened to walk past the store and saw this book in the window at $12.50? I know he's away campaigning, but I like to think about it anyway.

Well, happy Black History Month! Stay warm -- it's colder than ever. And ... hey, if you happen to see Senator Barack Obama, point him our way!

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