Treasure Trove of African-American Memorabilia Under One
Elizabeth Kuhr (NBC Nightly News)
Elizabeth Meaders admits she's a bit
It takes seeing the world a bit
differently to live with some 20,000+
pieces of historic African American
documents and artifacts — literally in
every room — of her modest
five-bedroom house in New York City.
Walking the halls, browsing each
room, the basement, garage, and
closets is a journey through
history, and an extraordinary
Starting with her dining room
table, Meaders highlights a medal
honoring Crispus Attucks, the first
American to die in the American
Revolution, then letters written by
Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King and
several American presidents. There
are heavyweight boxing championship
belts from Muhammad Ali, Ken Norton,
Mike Tyson and more. Shackles and
restraints worn by slaves, battle
gear worn by civil war soldiers,
even a hood and burned cross
representing the KKK.
"It shows what the challenge was
for those who were trying to
catapult all the hate," the retired
school teacher explained. "These are
unique treasures from the African
American history trust. Each one of
them a talking point and a
documentation of important African
Perhaps the most obvious question
that comes to mind is, "why?" Why
are these treasures in your home,
and not on display in a museum?
"I come from a family where
African American history is very
important," she explains noting that
her family can trace its genealogy
to the 1700s, and that her
great-great grandfather was the last
slave freed on Staten Island.
"I know the significance of
this neglected history," she
went on to say, criticizing
the nation's schools for not
teaching enough African
American history. "This has
been a chore and a challenge
I gave to myself and it has
been a labor of love."
As the tour continues
Meaders points out flyers
rallying passengers for the
Montgomery bus boycott, Cab
Calloway's baton, a crutch
carried by a wounded civil
war soldier etched with war
cries: "We're fighting for
liberty..." There are slave
branding irons, a picture of
an African American family
at the St. Louis fair in
1902, Jackie Robinson's
American Legion hat, and
Meaders claims she has
been collecting items every
day for the past 50 years,
at memorabilia shows, from
dealers, sitting in her
rocking chair browsing
catalogs, you name it. An
appraiser who took a look
estimated the value at $10
in her home
in New York
"I've spent every penny I have, every penny I hope to
have, every penny I ought to have," Meaders proclaimed,
adding that she's refinanced her house a few times, and
run up quite a bit of debt.
A civil war medal named for General Benjamin
Butler, a white general who led a force of black
soldiers into battle.
most prized possession is a civil war medal named for
General Benjamin Butler, a white general who led a force
of black soldiers into battle at a time when just about
all of his colleagues refused to. Butler was said to
have been so impressed with the soldiers, that he used
his own money to buy extremely rare medals at Tiffany's
— only about 200 exist.
Why is it so precious to Meaders? "Because it's the
essence of who we are as a people," she explains,
reflecting on the troops bravery and valor. "Somebody
has recognized it."
But now, as the years have gone by, Meaders has come to
realize it's time to let go. She's had offers to
purchase parts of her collection. She has loaned items
to museums. But she has refused to break-up what may be
the most comprehensive collection of African American
history assembled by a single person.
"It's a journey through the African American experience.
That's how it was developed and that is the purpose,"
she said. "The impact is the word comprehensive."
Finally, Meaders took a comfortable seat at her kitchen
table. Arranged before her were very personal contents
of a time capsule that had been inserted into a Boston
building in 1890 by members of an African American arts
group that owned the building.
"When the building was torn down these things went into
an auction. I jumped at it," she explained.
Inside the capsule were business cards identifying the
owners, various documents and writings about their
lives, and a small centuries-old black Bible.
Meaders put on her glasses, took a deep breath and began
to read a message scrawled on the first page: "May the
truth it contains last when this structure shall have
crumbled to dust," Meaders read, her voice cracking with
emotion, her eyes filling with tears.
For her, that's what her collection, her life's work is
all about, the truth about the African American
"May this collection exist when Elizabeth Meaders has
crumbled to dust," she whispered, hoping someone would
W A T C H V I D E O
i24TV NEWS -- Shayna Estulin's report on Elizabeth
Meader's treasure trove of African American History
W A T C H V I D E O
NYC Mayor's Wife (Chirlane McCray) Visits Elizabeth Meader's Stunning Black History Collection
L I S T E N T O
P O D C A S T
"Elizabeth Meaders, Collector of African American
with David Peterkofsky
you had been born during the slavery era, you probably would
have been an abolitionist yourself and/or played a role in
making this happen.
Perhaps you found this page by accident. We welcome you and
are happy that you were able to discover this unique
The slide show (above) will
provide just a small glimpse into the magnitude of this
stunning collection. Please feel free to forward this link to anyone
you believe will value what is presented here.
If you were invited to review this website you are about to
be informed of a wonderful, rare opportunity for you to
create a legacy for yourself through the embrace of this
African American history collection.
This remarkable collection was assembled over a fifty year
period by Elizabeth Meaders, an African American New York
school teacher. This collection -- the African American
History Trust (AAHT) -- has been professionally vetted and
appraised. Each document and artifact has been hand-selected
by Elizabeth, designed to warm the heart with wonder.
This healing and teaching instrument is so comprehensive
that it actually is ten-themed museums in one massive
AAHT essentially tells the entire tearful
and triumphant story of African American history in 10 main
categories (in no particular order)
-- 1. Slavery 2. Abolition 3. Arts & Entertainment 4.
Military 5. Religion 6. Civil Rights 7. Sports 8. Education
9. Women 10. Politics...
We welcome you on this journey by sharing with you some of
the materials contained in this amazing history treasure,
which is available for sale. Please contact Dr. Joel Freeman
(info below) for additional
The African American History
an astonishing compilation of well over 50,000 original
historic manuscripts, documents, newspapers, books,
photographs and artifacts...with
such items as:
Weapons, uniforms, medals,
reports, correspondence, photos, etc., from every major
American military engagement -- beginning with the
Revolution and continuing through the Vietnam War.
Objects and documents
relating to slavery and abolition, including a 1686
newspaper notice of runaway slaves, 23 documents
describing virtually every aspect of slavery from 1755
through 1866, a Frederick Douglass land deed, and
extensive material on such important topics and people
as the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman, John Brown
and Gerrit Smith.
handbills, campaign buttons, correspondence, and much
more -- all documenting 19th- and 20th-century political
events affecting African Americans.
materials relating to Civil Rights history: Marcus
Garvey's death mask; volumes of NAACP archival
materials; black power collections; correspondence from
Martin Luther King, Jr., Lyndon B. Johnson, Mary White Ovington, and others; a KKK robe; letters and materials
from George Wallace, Lester Maddox, James Earl Ray, and
collections, including uniforms, awards, contracts,
photos, and more on such athletes as Joe Louis, Jackie
Robinson, Michael Jordan, Jim Brown, and Arthur Asche as
well as material on amateur and professional sports
ranging from boxing to bicycling.
Arts and entertainment
material featuring Paul Robeson, Cab Calloway, Lena
Horne, and many others; rarities include a Cotton
Club collection from the 1920s and 1930s.
Other collections on
religion, education, women, and much more...
Butler "Colored Troop" Medal
In 1865 this solid silver military decoration was given to
nearly 200 African Americans,
recognizing their meritorious or heroic
acts of bravery
in the Civil War.
Elizabeth Meaders collection is for sale. A few years ago David
Hinckley wrote an article about Ms. Meaders for the NY
Daily News. He mentions that Ms. Meaders states, "My
collections need to be seen. The stories need to be told.
African American history is like Rodney Dangerfield. It
gets no respect because, too often, we just don't know its
This Collection is one of the finest of its kind in the
world today. Elizabeth Meaders divides her Collection into
twelve main categories or sub-collections in order of
importance, along with her comments as follows:
The most important part of the
Collection because of the scarcity of available
items and the difficulty of locating primary
artifacts – thus documenting the neglected role
of African Americans in the military. A huge
grouping of pieces from the Revolutionary War to
the Vietnam conflict.
2. Civil Rights and the “Uncivil Wrongs”:
White power, KKK, etc. The Civil Rights movement
is the most important American revolution.
of all categories):
Documents African American achievements and
their impact in changing/raising sports
standards – boxing, baseball, football, horse
racing, cycling, basketball, et al. A rare view
into the beginning of Black basketball (Renaissance
Harlem Basketball team)…also, with teams
like the Harlem Globetrotters, who were the
international ambassadors of basketball –
introducing basketball to Europeans and others
around the world…paving the way for the current
interest in the game of basketball globally.
Showcases a neglected field of documentation.
Reveals the impact of African American
Signifies efforts to participate in democracy.
Substantiates efforts to “pull
oneself up by the bootstraps.”
Establishes the stabilizing effect of religion
in everyday life for African Americans.
Overcoming unspeakable horrors. 10.
Legacies in ink – magnificent autographs of most
the prominent African Americans.
African American in the air. A
rare peek of African American aviators (e.g.
A Jamaican whose lectures and ideas attracted
millions of followers. He initiated a dramatic
program for instilling Black pride.
Each category could fill its own museum and then some. It is
impossible to exaggerate when trying to describe this
In a perfect world,
Elizabeth says, her collection would go to a museum where
parts would go on display and other parts would create
a traveling exhibition.
"Interest in black
history is growing almost everywhere," she says.
"Black History museums draw tourists. But around New
York City and some other high-population regions of
we don't have a museum specifically for our history."
So she keeps
looking -- for an angel, in a sense. An angel who loves
the stories more than the pieces of paper or metal.
need to have the passion," she says. "Without the
passion, you can't tell the stories."
1. Tears down barriers between Blacks and Whites, young and
2. Opens and changes hearts and minds...
3. Surrounds Black people with their ancestors, giving a
sense of awe and wonderment for all...
4. Causes people to think and want to learn more, leading to
scholarship and education...
5. Leaves a legacy...
Below are a couple
of videos to better understand the magnitude of Elizabeth's
collection. Take a few moments to review them..
NYC Mayor's Wife (Chirlane McCray)
reviews a small part of Elizabeth Meader's stunning Black
W A T C H T W O M O R E V I D E
Marcus Garvey's items
(death mask, etc.) -- Part I (4:59)
Marcus Garvey's items (rare
medal, etc.) -- Part II (3:30)
MEADERS & HER VISION
Ms. Elizabeth Meaders, a retired teacher from Staten Island, NY,
designed this amazing collection over the course of her
lifetime, which comprehensively documents the African American
For years that
stretched into decades, Elizabeth Meaders taught school by day
while quietly building her collection of African-American
history into one of the largest in the country.
From politics to
religion, military items and even the sinister flip side of
Civil Rights that she calls "civil wrongs," Meaders has gathered
more than 10,000 documents and artifacts at her home on Staten
Island. But all those, she says, are just a window to what she
really collects, which are stories.
For instance take the Butler
Medal, a military decoration presented by Major Gen.
Benjamin Butler to his troops after the Civil War.
Besides its scarcity
- only 197 were struck - the Butler Medal is distinguished
because, unlike other Civil War decorations, it was given
only to black troops.
"Early in the war,
General Butler and the other generals all agreed they would
not command colored troops," explains Meaders. "But
eventually he had to, and he was so impressed that, when no
one else would credit them for their bravery, he
commissioned these medals from Tiffany's out of his own
When a Butler
Medal came on the market for $14,000, Meaders took out a
loan and bought it.
"It's the single
piece to which I feel most connected," she says. "A
collection is like a puzzle. I know the pieces. I see the
story I want each collection to tell."
Those stories fill
her home. A watch has a face that spells out "emancipation,"
surrounding an illustration of Mother Liberty freeing a
"Are there any
stories in history," she asks, "as dynamic as the
Meaders inherited an
interest in history from her parents and collects today as
she always has, one piece of a story at a time.
MEADERS Bill Pickett's saddle? PBS History Detectives did
about this saddle.
(view segment below)
In keeping with her
lifelong educational mission, she would like to ensure that her
collection is not only properly preserved and housed, but also
widely available in public venues and school classrooms. Ideally
Elizabeth would prefer that the collection remain intact and
reside in a public institution capable of reaching a large,
reflectively states that her collecting efforts highlight the
trials and the tribulations as well as the glorious triumphs of
her people. Her collection has been vetted by history
professionals and they concur with her feelings.
Take a look below at
the PBS History Detectives show segment that showcases one of
her unique pieces...
AIRED: Season 5, Episode 9;
Season 6, Episode 6
THE DETECTIVE: Tukufu Zuberi
THE PLACE: Oklahoma
THE CASE: Elizabeth
Meaders, a Staten Island woman, owns a well-worn saddle with the
name “Bill Pickett” burned into it. She believes it was once
owned by legendary cowboy Bill Pickett, an African-American Wild
West Show and film star. Pickett invented bulldogging, the rodeo
event now known as steer wrestling.
Pickett's back story is perhaps most intriguing:
born to slave parents, Pickett rose to entertain kings
and dignitaries on an international tour of his Wild
West show, and he counted among his friends Will Rogers
and Tom Mix.
(Tukufu Zuberi) visits the National Cowboy and Western Heritage
Museum, meets a real-life steer wrestler and talks with
a 101 Ranch historian about the legacy of the legendary
"Elizabeth Meaders --
NBC Nightly News -- Lester Holt -- Chirlane McCray -- African American history collection -- black history -- Staten Island --
New York -- black history collection -- rare documents -- museum --
gallery -- Joel Freeman -- exhibit"