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July 2nd, 2012
07:30 PM ET

Time running out for African-American collection

By Tiffany Alexander, CNN

(CNN) - The priceless, 8,000-piece collection of rare African-American memorabilia Nathaniel Montague spent decades collecting could be dismantled if a buyer doesn't come forward by mid-July.

During a status hearing in bankruptcy court scheduled for July 20 in Las Vegas, creditor ABKCO Music & Records plans to ask the court to conduct an auction of the items in the Montague Collection, which includes slave and indentured servitude documents, a signed copy of Phillis Wheatley's "Poems on Various Subjects" dated 1773, and a handwritten letter from Booker T. Washington seeking financial assistance for 221 students at Tuskegee.

"There's nothing I can do," Montague said. "I wish there were, but there isn't. I just hope that we don't turn out to be losers, and that I get something for my efforts."

Montague, a onetime radio personality who coined the phrase "Burn, Baby, Burn," spent 50 years acquiring rare and one-of-a-kind pieces of American history, including books, photographs, paintings and ephemera. An assessment of five of the pieces puts their total value somewhere between $592,000 and $940,000. His goal was to turn it into a museum. Now that it is out of his possession, he just wants to see his life's work remain intact.

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Filed under: Black in America • History
Anderson Cooper says he's gay, happy and proud
July 2nd, 2012
05:20 PM ET

Anderson Cooper says he's gay, happy and proud

(CNN) - In a lengthy e-mail message to the Daily Beast's Andrew Sullivan that was posted to the site on Monday, CNN's Anderson Cooper comes out publicly as gay.

Sullivan, who says he has counted Cooper as a friend for more than two decades, writes in the article that he asked Cooper to weigh in on a recent Entertainment Weekly piece that examined the trend of gay people coming out in a "more ... matter-of-fact way" than in the past. (Sullivan, who is openly gay and an advocate of same-sex marriage, says he asked for Cooper's opinion "for reasons that are probably obvious to most.")

And in an e-mailed response, which Sullivan says the "Anderson Cooper 360" anchor gave him permission to post, Cooper writes that he's thought about the topic over the years, and has decided to be clear about the fact that he’s gay.

Cooper says he refrained from being so straightforward in the past because he was trying "to maintain some level of privacy in my life," for both personal and professional reasons.

"As long as a journalist shows fairness and honesty in his or her work, their private life shouldn't matter," Cooper writes. "I’ve stuck to those principles for my entire professional career, even when I’ve been directly asked 'the gay question,' which happens occasionally."

Read the full post on CNN's Marquee blog

Photos: Love for Alyssa still grows
Alyssa Hagstrom soaks up the sunshine last year in Palm Coast, Florida.
July 2nd, 2012
02:02 PM ET

Photos: Love for Alyssa still grows

By Brett Roegiers, CNN

(CNN) - Eight-year-old Alyssa Hagstrom was born with a rare disorder that left her unable to use her arms and legs. Confined to a wheelchair most of the day, she can’t eat without assistance. But that doesn’t stop her from trying.

“She is very self-motivated and wants to be as independent as possible,” says photographer Jennifer Kaczmarek. “Though the reality is that she cannot do most things on her own.”

Kaczmarek met Alyssa just after her fifth birthday. She started photographing her as part of a freelance assignment for a nonprofit group in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Moved by the young girl’s determination and “amazing spirit,” Kaczmarek says she felt compelled to do more.

“When we were done, I wasn’t ready to let go,” she says. “What little I had begun to learn about her was enough for me to know she deserved to have someone in her corner fighting for her.”

Alyssa was diagnosed with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, which is marked by stiff joints and abnormal muscle development. The condition affects approximately one in 3,000 people,

Kaczmarek founded Love for Alyssa last year to help offset the family’s medical costs. Since then, the nonprofit has raised nearly $5,000 with an exhibition and a fundraising walk.

Read the full post on CNN's Photos blog

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Filed under: Disabilities • Health • How we look
Opinion: Is civil rights group losing its relevance?
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. attends a prayer pilgrimage in 1957, the year he would co-found the SCLC.
July 2nd, 2012
10:53 AM ET

Opinion: Is civil rights group losing its relevance?

Editor's note: Roland S. Martin is a syndicated columnist and author of "The First: President Barack Obama's Road to the White House." He is a commentator for the TV One cable network and host/managing editor of its Sunday morning news show, "Washington Watch with Roland Martin."

By Roland S. Martin, CNN Contributor

(CNN) - Whenever someone has lived a solid and productive life, the pastor at his or her funeral may turn to Matthew 25:21 to offer a few words the good Lord may utter as the person's spirit ascends to heaven: "Well done, good and faithful servant!"

In the pantheon of civil rights organizations, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference stands tall as one of the greatest groups ever to advance the cause of civil rights, helping bring the hatred and bigotry of Jim Crow to its knees.

From its marches and protests to its negotiations with political and business leaders and its efficient work with other civil rights groups, the SCLC's work has been legendary.

Yet 55 years after its co-founding by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it is an organization that makes headlines today more for infighting among members and the revolving door that its top leadership positions have become - all while crucial social justice issues continue to fester for African-Americans and others.

Read Roland Martin's full column