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‘It’s hidden history’: the race to save one man’s collection of black Americana | The Guardian

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‘It’s hidden history’: the race to save one man’s collection of black Americana | The Guardian From a slave’s collar to segregation signs, Oran Z has spent years collecting often shocking mementoes of America’s racial struggles. Now it all lies in shipping containers – and no institution will touch it

African American History, Black History, KOLUMN Magazine, KOLUMN, KINDR'D Magazine, KINDR'D



Oran Z’s house is so crammed with black American memorabilia there is barely room to move. The hallways are lined with glass-fronted display cabinets and plastic storage crates filled with everything from slave shackles to the disembodied wax heads of African-American icons. The shelves groan under the weight of thousands of dolls, vinyl records, Mammy cookie jars and a vast assortment of what he calls “knick-knack paddywhacks” – curios, gadgets and toys, many of them startling in their unabashed racism.

The dining table, doing double-duty as desk space for a bank of computers, is hemmed in by a set of outsized, high-backed leather chairs. The kitchen is strewn with every imaginable object except cooking equipment. And outside the house, behind the swimming pool and towards the Sierra Pelona mountains of the Mojave desert, are nine shipping containers filled to the brim with a lifetime’s obsessive accumulation.

“I’m a collector,” Oran says unapologetically. “I collect everything.”

These days he’s also a man on a mission. Having been diagnosed with stage four prostate cancer, he wants to find a home for his collection while he still has time.


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