Staten Island woman’s collection of over 20,000 Black history artifacts to be auctioned

March 9, 2022

All images courtesy of Guernsey’s

Thousands of historical items illustrating the Black experience in America are going up for auction. Compiled over 60 years by former New York City teacher Elizabeth Meaders, the collection is widely regarded as one of the most comprehensive, surpassing collections belonging to museums and other private institutions. The Elizabeth Meaders Collection of African American Historical and Cultural Artifacts will be put up for an online auction as a single collection through Guernsey’s on March 15.

The collection of over 20,000 items sits inside Elizabeth Meaders’s three-story house in Mariners Harbor on Staten Island, where she has organized rooms to showcase different categories of artifacts, Meaders told CBS.

Meaders began collecting items in 1960 after being inspired by the trailblazing accomplishments of Jackie Robinson. Now at 90 years old, the former teacher said she knows it is time for her collection to find a new home.

Meaders’s collection includes items ranging from the Revolutionary War to today’s Black Lives Matter movement. The collection depicts the horrors of slavery including tools like shackles, bullwhips, and wooden hobbles. Other more modern items include Klu Klux Klan robes and a K.K.K.-branded water pistol.

“This is a motherlode of information, with so many stories that have never been told,” Meaders said to the New York Times. “That’s the purpose of my collection: to educate, heal, inspire and empower.”

The collection shows the important role African Americans have played in the United State’s military throughout its history. Examples of items included are helmets that were worn by Black soldiers in the Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War. There are tributes to the famed Tuskegee Airmen and the rifles of Black World War and Vietnam War soldiers.

Many of the items in the collection document the Civil Rights movement, including banners carried by protestors during the 1960s and posters for speeches and other events. Reminders of immortalized moments in the movement like the March on Washington and the march over Edmund Pettus Bridge are on display.

Tributes for Black leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X are just a few examples of the many influential figures commemorated in the collection.

The collection also includes artifacts that depict the impact of African Americans in the arts, entertainment, and sports. Examples of items include billboard posters of Stevie Wonder, shoes belonging to Muhammad Ali, and pitcher Satchel Paige’s rocking chair. You can find images and tributes to hundreds of Black musicians across all genres within the Meaders collection.


“There is no collection either institutional or privately owned that represents the totality of the Black experience in America as comprehensively as the Elizabeth Meaders Collection,” Randy Weinstein, Director of the W.E.B. DuBois Center, said in a statement.

The one-of-a-kind collection will go up for auction on March 15. Bidding starts at $1,000,000.


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