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VA Medical Center hosts historian James Christopher for Black History Month

Tucson-based historian brings his personal collection of artifacts spanning 20th century black history
Posted at 7:53 AM, Feb 28, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-28 13:39:17-05

The VA Medical Center held a Black History Month event featuring Tucson-based historian James Christopher.

Christopher showed a collection of items from his personal museum, which features items reflecting Black history and representation throughout the past century.

While many of the items may be considered difficult to look at, Christopher hopes that these images from the past can help improve our future.

“Black history is ugly and it’s just part of history,” Christopher says. “So we have to take it as it is and try to learn from it and as we move forward, try to see what we can do to make things better.”

Christopher maintains his personal collection at the Black Memorabilia Museum, located at 2029 S. Campbell Ave. The museum features many additional items not for public display, such as slave collars and identification tags. These items aren’t taken on the road due to their value and risk of being damaged.

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Christopher began collecting Black memorabilia after shopping at a flea market over 30 years ago.

“I found a Black old doll and thought it was rather interesting,” he says. “I paid a couple dollars for it, took it home and put it away for a while. A couple weeks later I was at a flea market again and I saw something else that was Black and that started me collecting. I’ve been collecting ever since.”

Since the flea market days, Christopher meets with new collectors through networks, sometimes trading and bartering for new items. He says that, in the 1990s, collecting Black memorabilia was the third-highest category for collectors, trailed only by Native American and advertising memorabilia.

In addition to maintaining his museum, Christopher runs an annual MLK breakfast and provides scholarships for primary and secondary education. The common thread with all his activities involves building a future with more equality and opportunity.

“My theme is looking blackward,” he says. “That’s going back and forward. And we can all have a hand as we move forward in making things better.”