Display provides perspective during Black History Month

"Come early for inspection," reads a flier advertising a slave sale in Savannah, Ga., on Nov. 13, 1829. "All these blacks will be tagged by number and sold in accordance to the highest bidder."

"It's unbelievable - like an ad today for Albertsons," said Carson City resident Rose Lynn Mangan. "What a horrible time it was. Slavery was terrible."

Mangan, 78, has been collecting these types of items since she was 14, and has loaned some of her pieces for viewing at the Carson City Library for Black History Month.

The display of African art and slavery-era items includes an authentic carpetbag, shackles, books and what could be best described as a "rental agreement" - a contract stipulating terms for someone to use someone else's slave for a specific amount of time.

Africans were brought to the United States for sale as slaves starting during the early 1600s - soon after colonists began arriving from Europe - until the end of the Civil War. The Europeans already had been involved in the practice of slavery for many centuries.

"People are surprised to find out you could 'borrow' slaves," Mangan said. "And the shackles just take your breath away."

By allowing the library to show these items, she especially hopes to "interest young people in what this history is about."

"If you can look at the real thing, it means something," she said.

Mangan said collecting the items served that purpose in her own life and that it increased her interest. She speaks authoritatively about history related to slavery though she simply refers to herself as an "armchair historian."

Slave traders would transport Africans together who came from different tribes so they couldn't communicate - and possibly devise a way to rebel and escape their fate, she said.

Mangan has also loaned the library examples of African woodcarving, weaving and ironwork. These pieces provide added perspective to the culture slaves had been forcibly removed from, she said.

"These people were stolen from their land, " she said. "They were so frightened."

Mangan, who originates from New York City, found most of her items during the years at flea markets and yard sales. While most of these pieces have appreciated in value as interest in these types of objects has grown in recent years, "it used to be considered worthless," she said.

Mangan sometimes was derided for being interested in the topic because it wasn't something many other whites encouraged or even condoned. She has been called a few unprintable names from time to time, she remembered.

However, "I didn't collect these items to make a statement," she emphasized. "The more I learned about slavery, the more I wanted to learn about African culture and society."

Though she has never been to Africa, she'd really love to go. However, she said, "old people don't travel well."

Andrea Moore, the library's community relations coordinator, said "It's the first time for us to have a display of such an authentic and large amount."

• Contact reporter Terri Harber at tharber @nevadaappeal.com or 882-2111, ext. 215.

To read

The Carson City Library suggests choosing from among these titles to learn more about black history:

Youth books

Ages 5-6

"A Picture Book of Harriet Tubman," by David Adler

Ages 7-11

"North by Night: A Story of the Underground Railroad," by Katherine Ayers

"The Wagon," by Tony Johnston

"Let My People Go," by Pat McKissack

Youth nonfiction

"Escape from Slavery: The Boyhood of Frederick Douglass in His Own Words," by Frederick Douglass

"Bound for America: The Forced Migration of Africans to the New World," by James Haskins

Young adult nonfiction

Ages 12-17

"Rebels Against Slavery: American Slave Revolts," by Pat McKissack

Adult choices

"Wreck of the Henrietta Marie: An African-American's Spiritual Journey to Uncover a Sunken Slave Ship's Past," by Michael H. Cottman

"Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Ante-bellum Slave Market," by Walter Johnson

Carson City Library

Where: 900 N. Roop St.

CALL: 887-2244

Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday, Saturday and Monday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. It's closed Sundays


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