Items reflecting Black History up for auction

The Howard Wolverton Collection of Black Americana featuring artifacts and treasures of Black American history will be auctioned off Thursday in Falls Church. The collection includes items reminiscent of our country's shameful past of hatred and racism.

Jacob Johnson is the conservator and the appraiser of this collection.

"The collection originated in East Orange, New Jersey," he explained. "It originated with Howard Wolverton, who was a history teacher for predominately black students in high school there."

This collection contains more than 2,000 relics ranging from books and photos along with chains and branding irons that might be a little more difficult for people to absorb.

"There are items that I have a difficult time dealing with," said Johnson. "The shackles, the branding iron - I have a difficult time with those things. It is important because that is American history. It is the dark side of American history that many people would not accept and want to forget. But guess what? It's part of history and we should be proud of our history. We are Americans."

For some, these items can bring out a lot of emotion.

"I see people who almost draw tears," Johnson said. "When you see how somebody was shackled, it brings tears to some people's eyes. Can you imagine being branded with a branding iron? It's horrific."

The pieces in this collection date from the late 1700s to the 1960s.

"There are those people who don't believe that these things should even exist any longer and there are those people who will buy them to destroy them," Johnson told us. "It is very significant that we remember who built the country, how it was built, and it's our history. It is everybody's history. It is not just black people. It is American history and we cannot deny it."

Johnson said Wolverton used his collection as part of his teaching curriculum.

"We would not be where we are today if in fact this culture, this subculture, were not illustrated through this collection," he said. "Black History Month is a good month to present these things. However, this is year-round. This is something that should be taught to our children. I don't care if you are black, if you are white, subculture Italian, subculture Jewish. It is significant because we are all Americans."

The auction will take place Thursday night at Quinn's Auction Galleries in Falls Church. For more information, go to