Saturday, December 31, 2011

Greatest Hits

As 2011 ends, many lists of greatest hits and memorials to famous men and women circulate; Joe Frazier was and could deliver one of the greatest “hits” of all time. As a tribute to his passing in November, this post highlights the long legacy of African American achievement in the sport of boxing through two jewels in the holdings of the Auburn Avenue archives. The first African American world heavyweight champ, Jack Johnson became a lightning rod for the racial politics of the Jim Crow era and, as Mark Scott observes, also “contributed to the world of music by opening a nightclub, in Harlem, the Club Deluxe, that was later bought by gangsters and turned into the Cotton Club” (216). According to Scott, Mohammed Ali’s coaches would evoke Jack Johnson for ringside support: “Ghost in the house, the ghost of Jack Johnson is watching” (216). In a 1909 poster declaring Johnson the “Champion of the World” in the archival holdings, the newly-crowned heavyweight champion is portrayed in his fighting stance, flanked by two ovals, the one on the lower-left depicting his humble origins in Galveston, Texas and the other on the lower-right showing him in the driver's seat of the latest automobile. 
Brandt and Scheible Poster Commemorating Jack Johnson's World Heavyweight Title
As the writer Ralph Ellison would later note, Jack Johnson “was rejected by most whites and by many respectable Negroes, but he was nevertheless a hero among veterans of the Spanish-American War who rejoiced in the skill and √©lan with which Johnson set off the now-outrageous search for a ‘White Hope’” (215). While the 1909 Brandt and Scheible poster chronicles Johnson’s rise to power, a gorgeous oversized, collectible book from Taschen (made available to the public in 2004) documents the life of the “Greatest of All Time.” Of a limited edition run of nine thousand, the archives of AARL boast copy number 5,362 of this one-of-a-kind monograph, GOAT: A Tribute to Mohammed Ali. This heavyweight (literally) homage to the most famous heavyweight ever can only be described as an experience: a textual, photographic, and artistic montage of Ali’s life and times. A fitting testament to Ali’s larger-than-life status, this biography also collects his many quotable dictums, both comic and prophetic: “I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize, but get used to me. Black, confident, cocky—my name not yours. My religion, not yours. My goals, my own. Get used to me” (588).


Ellison, Ralph. Going to the Territory. New York: Random House, 1986.

Scott, Mark. "Jack Johnson: World Heavyweight Champion." In The First Black Boxing Champions: Essays on Fighters of the 1800s to the 1920s, Colleen Aycock and Mark Scott, 200-217. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, 2010.

Posted by Joy Bracewell, AARL Intern

Thursday, December 1, 2011

World AIDS Day 2011: Collection highlights LGBTQ advocate and activist Duncan Teague

A quick look at personal photos and ephemera from the Duncan Teague Collection, which is available for research.  photo courtesy Kesah Peace

Over twenty years ago, HIV/AIDS awareness got its first global platform via World AIDS Day. Celebrated every year on Dec. 1, the day of global unity was created in honor of those whose lives had been claimed by the pandemic and to spread awareness about the nearly 33 million people infected today.  In commitment to our mission, AARL has made efforts to contribute to the fight against HIV/AIDS by providing materials that highlight the unselfish work of activists like Duncan Teague.

In August 2009, AARL welcomed and celebrated the donation of the Duncan Teague Collection. Teague, a socio-political activist, writer, performance artist, minister, and advocate of the black gay and lesbian community, has been working in HIV/AIDS prevention for the last twenty years. A former two-time grand marshal of the Atlanta Gay Pride, Teague is deeply rooted in advocacy and the Atlanta community, having served in the African American Lesbian Gay Alliance, Georgia Equality, AID Atlanta, Georgia Equality, the National Black Gay and Lesbian Leadership Forum, and ARCA (AIDS Research Consortium of Atlanta).

At almost 50 cubic feet, the collection contains Teague’s papers, those of artist/activist Tony Daniels, and the records of ADODI Muse: A Gay Negro Ensemble.

For more information on Teague and his legacy of fighting to combat HIV/AIDS in the Atlanta community, visit AARL to browse our African American Gay and Lesbian Print Collection.

Also, to learn more about World Aids Day go to:

Yewande Addie, AARL Intern