Black history ‘undertaker’ loses treasures

By Tiffany Alexander, CNN

Montague with his collection

Montague with his collection

Nathaniel Montague spent more than 50 of his 84 years chasing history, meticulously collecting rare and one-of-a-kind fragments of America’s past. Slave documents. Photographs. Signatures. Recordings.

Montague — Magnificent Montague, as he’s been known since his days as a pioneering radio DJ — amassed an 8,000-piece collection reflecting names from the well-known to the forgotten to those history never thought to remember. It’s valued in the millions; some call it priceless. One assessment of just five of the pieces puts the total value of those treasures alone somewhere between $592,000 and $940,000.

For decades Montague carted the collection of African-American artwork, artifacts and ephemera around the country with his family as he took jobs at radio stations in New York, Chicago, Oakland, and Los Angeles, and then finally to Las Vegas, where he moved 12 years ago after closing a station he built from the ground up in Palm Springs, California.

The Montague Collection was his prized possession, but because of financial woes he has lost it. It is now up for auction.

“I have not been able to maintain the collection for the last couple of years,” Montague said. While working with his wife of 56 years, Rose Casalan, to archive and prepare the collection for sale, he took out a loan to help pay for the archiving, found himself overextended financially and declared bankruptcy. His collection was seized, and it is now in the hands of a trusteeship charged with selling it to satisfy his debts, including a judgment for $325,000 plus interest and court fees.

If no one steps up to buy the collection in its entirety, Montague’s life’s work could be dismantled and sold off in pieces to pay his creditors.

Read more of the story here.

Black legislators, past and present, celebrated in Atlanta exhibit

Image of the first black members of Congress

Image of the first black members of Congress

The rich history of Georgia’s black legislators has been captured in an exciting exhibit at an African-American library in downtown Atlanta.

The exhibition, entitled “Remembering Our Legends and Honoring Our Torchbearers”, features an extensive collection, from rare artifacts from the 19th century to documents from the civil rights era, as well as recorded interviews with current lawmakers.

The display, showcased at Auburn Avenue Research Library, celebrates the history of black Americans who have served in the Georgia General Assembly. This includes the first black men, who were elected to the Georgia legislature in 1868, but were prohibited from assuming office because of their color.

Read more about the exhibit here.