A carte de visite of Christian Fleetwood, Civil War Congressional Medal of Honor Winner, c. 1865 A carte de visite of Christian Fleetwood, Civil War Congressional Medal of Honor Winner, c. 1865 Photo: creative common

It’s not often that an entire subset of American history comes up for sale on the auction block. In fact, THE ROAD WEST: THE STEVE TURNER COLLECTION OF AFRICAN AMERICANA (Part 1) may be the first time in modern United States history that a phenomenon such as this will take place.

The Turner Collection includes over 1200 photographs, pamphlets, books, postcards, and posters that depict the African American experience on the frontier, and points further West.

Unpublished CDV of Frederick Douglass by Benjamin F. Smith, 1864 Unpublished CDV of Frederick Douglass by Benjamin F. Smith, 1864 Photo: creative common

For the last 400 years, ever since a Dutch man o’ war brought slaves to the colony of Virginia, and the story of slavery in the new world began, the continent of North America has lived two parallel stories, one of white America, the other of black America. And for all these many years, the narrative of the black Americans has been passed over, minimized, and covered up.

Accounts of what happened, told from the African American perspective, have rarely been set down in words. From the beginning, enslaved Africans created a unique way of passing down their shared history by preaching, testifying, storytelling, signifying and rapping. For the scholar, the ephemeral nature of the experience has presented a problem; for the collector, the extant materials have offered an opportunity.

J.A. Palmer Wilde Woman of Aiken Cabinet Card, 1882 J.A. Palmer Wilde Woman of Aiken Cabinet Card, 1882 Photo: creative common

It took a collector with an eye — Los Angeles gallery owner Steve Turner — to recognize that physical clues had been scattered throughout popular culture. Indulging his obsession as a collector, Turner assiduously pieced together an astonishing collection that stretches from a photograph of a regal Buffalo Soildier, circa 1886, to a Black Panther Manifesto that depicts a defiant Bobby Seal strapped in the electric chair, circa 1968. The accumulated weight of Turner’s material makes it clear that African Americans experienced their own version of manifest destiny.

For an opportunity to sample the full depth of the collection, and to bid on museum quality material, register to attend Cowan’s online auction, that will take place on Thursday February 20th, 10 AM Central Time. See link https://www.cowanauctions.com/auction/2202020-the-road-west-the-steve-turner-collection-of-african-americana-part-i-12586

John C.H. Grabill Cabinet Card of Buffalo Soldier Wearing Buffalo Coat, ca 1886 John C.H. Grabill Cabinet Card of Buffalo Soldier Wearing Buffalo Coat, ca 1886 Photo: creative common