American Numismatic Society intern Jaharia Knowles authored this ANS Pocket Change blog post about the American Negro Commemorative Society medals. Here's an excerpt.
NCS Henry Ossian Flipper medal
George A. Beach, a 32-year-old advertising designer based in Pennsylvania founded the Society in collaboration with the Franklin Mint for the purpose of highlighting Black American historical figures. With the ANCS, Beach sought to educate Americans, especially Black Americans, on influential Black figures who were often left out of "traditional," whitewashed narratives of American history. The subjects featured on the medals lived as early as the Revolutionary era, illustrating how ingrained Black people are in the nation's history. In fact, many of those featured were pioneers in their field, such as W. C. Handy, self-proclaimed "Father of the Blues," and George Washington Carver, who made significant contributions to the study of agriculture in the early twentieth century.
The commemoration of Black historical figures on medals, at least in the United States, was unprecedented. The ANCS addressed this in one of their advertisements, saying, "Many notable American Negroes were given some recognition in their time, but nearly all have been sadly neglected in numismatics. We hope to fill that void." The ANCS's efforts to highlight previously overlooked Black Americans was part of a greater push to include Black history in American history started earlier in the century by Carter G. Woodson, founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (also featured on one of the ANCS medals).
ANCS Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable Medal
While some of the Black Americans featured on the ANCS' medals have become household names, such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, others are not as well-known. For instance, Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable, a tradesman and the first non-indigenous permanent resident of Chicago, had not been recognized for his role in the city's history until recently. For decades, John Kinzie, a white Canadian who bought Du Sable's property in 1804, had been wrongly given the title. While that began to change in the early twentieth century due to the determination of African-American led groups in Chicago, many Americans, even Chicagoans, were unfamiliar with Du Sable. The ANCS's commemoration of the tradesman was part of a long mission to redress a historical wrong. Today, Du Sable is widely recognized as the "Father of Chicago," but that would have been impossible without the contributions of Black activists, writers, and organizations, including the ANCS.
In a forthcoming feature in the ANS Magazine, I will offer an in-depth look at all 64 medals and explore other aspects of the Society, including the marketing of the medals, their reception, and the ANCS's ultimate demise.
To read the complete article, see:
THE AMERICAN NEGRO COMMEMORATIVE SOCIETY
Wayne Homren, Editor
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