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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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