Anita Pointer, vocalist for famed 1980s R&B group The Pointer Sisters, is also a major collector of black memorabilia, from racist caricature cookie jars and mechanical banks to slave shackles and disturbing children’s books like Ten Little Niggers and Little Black Sambo.
Over at Collectors Weekly, Lisa Hix interviews Pointer about her life, collection, and the motivations behind it. Pointer says:
I’ve always loved antiques, even as a little girl. My grandmother and my great-grandmother kept these trunks full of old clothes in the garage. Me and my sister Ruth used to play in those old clothes, putting them on and walking around the neighborhood. People would laugh at us, but we didn’t care. We’d be clonking down the street in old high-heeled shoes. It was so funny. I just love the memories of old things, so I guess it was a natural evolution for me to get into collecting. But as a child, I never saw any of the black memorabilia that I’m collecting now. Those racist caricatures weren’t in our home.
I suppose white people made these caricatures for themselves—-to laugh at them, I guess. I first discovered black memorabilia in 1998. That year, I was being inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, in Little Rock, Arkansas. They gave me an award for my contribution to music and had a big to-do for it, where I met Governor Mike Huckabee. After the ceremony, we were headed to Prescott, Arkansas, where my momma’s from, and we saw an antiques store. I’ve always loved looking around antiques stores, so we stopped. That’s when I saw Dancing Sam (image right), the first piece of black memorabilia that I bought. He was a painted black wooden doll, with a wire holder on his back and little hinges on his limbs. You hold him on top of a plywood platform, and you tap the plywood so he jumps and dances around. The packaging says, “Hours and hours of fun for your children.” [Laughs.] I was like, “Whoa, you mean kids would sit there and play with this for hours?” Dancing Sam was black with white lips, like blackface makeup, so he intrigued me. It all started there. I began going to antiques stores and picking up black memorabilia wherever I could find it.
Below: "Dinah" mechanical bank; Coon Chicken Inn menu; slave shackle