Hall of Famer and style icon Walt “Clyde” Frazier. Scholastic paperback 1973.
In addition to collecting 70s and 80s toys, Blaxploitation ephemera and outsider art, I’m also very interested in the history of this country and its representation of Black folk in the media. One of the first things I began collecting over 20 years ago is Black memorabilia. Seen by some as abhorrent and offensive, its a derisive and unforgettable part of American history and a touchstone to where we were and how far we still have to go. The cards pictured above are the first three cards of a set of 16 that were a promotion for the hugely popular Amos and Andy radio program which aired, in various formats, from 1928 to 1960.This rare set was given away by one of the sponsors of the program. The premise of the program was set around the hijinks of two friends, Amos and Andy, and their “fish out of water” life in the North. They were played by two white men in Blackface, an old minstrel tradition where Black people were mocked and cruelly ridiculed; initially on stage and later on radio and cinema. The radio program made the transition to television in the early 1950s featuring Black actors.
Panther Crime was an imprint of Panther Books Ltd., an British publishing house that released mostly fiction novels during the 1950s and 1960s. Famous for science fiction titles from the likes of Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov, Panther chose the gritty realism of Chester Himes’ detective novels to kick off its Panther Crime imprint. The paperbacks seen above were both released in Great Britain in 1969 and are typical of the Panther Crime’s use of surrealism with a subtle dose of gangsta. Taken out of the hard boiled 1950s and injected with late 60s “Black Mod” cool, the covers invite the reader to get lost in the world that Mr. Himes has constructed. A very welcome addition to my collection!
The background subtly compliments young Mike’s sartorial color palette.
My current obsession is finding and procuring Black pulp and crime paperback novels. The covers are often amazingly rendered and can be considered (at least by yours truly) a thumbnail version of what the poster would/could be. I’m particularly intrigued by the covers of the British versions of Chester Himes’ detective tomes. A lot racier and suggestive than their domestic counterparts, the photographs on these British paperbacks provocatively dare the reader to judge a book by its cover.