The manifest for the schooner Dolphin, arriving at Savannah, Ga., from Senegal in 1794, begins, "Slaves, forty-four, male and female" and ends, "two barrels of beef, one of pork and about five gallons of rum and one of ship bread."
This facsimile document is an exhibit at the Black Memorabilia Show and Sale being held through Friday at the Hubert Humphrey Building, 200 Independence Ave. SW, to celebrate National Black History Month.
In a careful hand the information is set out: The ship's master, and owner of most of the cargo, is one Gilbert Fuller. The ship's owners are Edward Mitchell and Cyprian Sterry of Providence, R.I.
Scribbled incidentally at the bottom, along with the harbor pilot's endorsement, is this: "N.B., three of the above Slaves Died on the Passage."
Across the room yesterday, Melvin Deal and his African Heritage Dancers and Drummers were performing dances from Senegal. They were happy dances -- a crane dance, a harvest festival, a celebration of childbirth. Schoolchildren and their teachers were brought up from the audience to stamp and skip with the dancers while everyone clapped in rhythm with the drums and a startling masked figure on six-foot stilts cavorted giddily.
Most of the exhibits are for sale by area antique dealers. There are hundreds of dolls, from homemade rag dolls with button eyes and sewn red mouths and head kerchiefs to a plastic Diana Ross doll in a spangled gown. There are china salt-shaker dolls and black Cabbage Patch dolls.
One stall features African masks and carved figurines, but many of the collectibles and folk art here are modern Americana. Original artwork ranges from busts of Martin Luther King, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Paul Robeson and Frederick Douglass to pencil portraits by John Nelson and "Egyptian papyrus hand-painted in Egypt on genuine papyrus paper from the Nile River reeds as made in ancient times."
Among the books displayed are Langston Hughes' charming photo essay with Roy De Carava, "The Sweet Flypaper of Life"; "Chocolate Drops" by E.V. White; "Slavery: Letters and Speeches" by Horace Mann; "La Case de l'Oncle Tom"; an 1867 antiabolition tract titled "The Six Species of Men -- Caucasian, Mongol, Malay, Indian, Esquimaux and Negro." There is also a deed recorded in 1863 by Frederick Douglass, selling for $65.
The dime-store novelties, dingy with age, catch the eye almost more than the jewelry and tie-dyed fabrics: a 16-mm film of "Little Black Sambo," pencils with cloth heads, a tube of Darkie Toothpaste, four-foot candleholders in the shape of costumed servants, a Lena Horne poster for "Black Talkies on Parade," Cream of Wheat and Bull Durham posters, a lithograph showing grinning children eating watermelon, a Life magazine article about Fort Bragg in which "Negro Engineers Sing on Parade" and games, toys and rattles with caricatured black faces on them.
They seem to be from a time in the distant past, but most of them date from the '30s and '40s and even '50s, hardly a generation away.