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
May 8th, 2012
02:05 PM ET

'Magnificent' collection faces breakup

By Tiffany Alexander, CNN

Las Vegas (CNN) - Nathaniel Montague spent more than 50 of his 84 years chasing history, meticulously collecting rare and one-of-a-kind fragments of America's past. Slave documents. Photographs. Signatures. Recordings.

Montague - Magnificent Montague, as he's been known since his days as a pioneering radio DJ - amassed an 8,000-piece collection reflecting names from the well-known to the forgotten to those history never thought to remember. It's valued in the millions; some call it priceless. One assessment of just five of the pieces puts the total value of those treasures alone somewhere between $592,000 and $940,000.

"I shudder to even fantasize what it could go for," said appraiser Philip Merrill, who performed the assessment.

For decades Montague carted the collection of African-American artwork, artifacts and ephemera around the country with his family as he took jobs at radio stations in New York, Chicago, Oakland, and Los Angeles, and then finally to Las Vegas, where he moved 12 years ago after closing a station he built from the ground up in Palm Springs, California.

The Montague Collection was his prized possession, but because of financial woes he has lost it. It is now up for auction.

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