Saturday, January 3, 2009

african-american magazines: our sports

Just got back from the New Jersey Antiquarian Bookfair, held annually at the Ramada Hotel in East Hanover, a few miles from my home. It was both a sad and inspiring evening. Over the years, attendance by both dealers and customers have been dwindling, most recently due to the internet and the economy. This year it filled one large room when previously it had filled two. In their heydey, I attended fifteen or so bookfairs a year all over the east coast. Now its just not worth the trip to most of them, other than to commune with old friends. For an old book junkie it was kind of sad.

Yet, the evening was still quite enjoyable. After the show, a dinner was held for some of the dealers and invited guests. A small gathering of the stalwarts of the local book trade. men and women who set up their booths for the pure love of the trade and to share good times with their colleagues. A few short speeches were given, most notably by Gary Austin, who spoke briefly and eloquently about the ongoing efforts of the antiquarian bookdealers association to assist the members of the trade who have fallen on hard times. The conversation around the table was both instuctive and stimulating. This blogger pontificated a bit about the importance of magazines and learned quite a lot from wise and learned men and women about dust jackets, modern first editions and the like- well worth the price of admission.

Anyhow, I had a nice conversation about african-american magazines with a specialist the area, Between the Covers Books of Merchantville New Jersey, and was inspired to write this entry about them.

Our Sports is an obscure yet quite interesting and important publication billing itself as "The Great New Negro Sports Magazine". It lasted a mere five issues (the last one by far the rarest) and advertised itself as being "edited" by Jackie Robinson. It appears that indeed Robinson did indeed participate in, endorse and promote it.
It took a little while to put the run together. Today issues sell for about a hundred dollars apiece when they pop up on eBay. The opening article entitled "Will there ever be a negro big-league manager?"shows just how for we've come in the last 55 years. The third issue includes "Boston Needs a Negro Big-Leaguer". It took six more years until the Red Sox fielded infielder Pumpsie Green, the last major league team to integrate.

Here are the covers of the entire run.

Next weekend off the Hartford for Papermania and the weekend after that to the bookfair at the Armory on Lexington Avenue on 25th Street in NYC. Old habits die hard. Still looking for Tamerlane!

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