The Press Gallery
The Acacia Collection in Country Home Magazine!
by Larry Erickson
Seared by the savage desert sun, the African acacia tree
thrives where little else survives. "It is a metaphor for the
African-American people," says Carroll Greene, a curator
and historian in Savannah, Georgia. He and a cluster of
friends have gathered a treasury they call the Acacia Collection of African Americana. "It celebrates a triumph of
spirit, of self-reliance, and the will to survive," he says.
Artifacts range from the sinister to the sublime. A cold
metal slave tag lists a tax number and the bearer's job. A
variety of meager, rough-hewn gifts--made with match-
sticks, cigar boxes, and care--honor the strength of the
heart. Unglazed pottery from the 1600s shows African traditions evolving with exposure to European and Native
American influences. This hybrid of styles, in its frail and
crumbling form, embodies the beginning of the African
The private preservation of such tokens is invaluable
to scholars and ultimately to public understanding. "The
museum world has not paid much attention to African
American material culture," says John Michael Vlach, a
professor of American Studies at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. "Carroll Greene has been one of
the pioneers in this ongoing effort."
Even as a child, growing up in the shadow of museums in
Washington, D.C., and New York City, Greene recognized those
institutions' colorless image of history. "I was aware, from my
teachers and family, that African Americans had contributed,"
he recalls, "but I didn't see this around me in the museums."
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