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Local Officer Showcases A Rare Historical Find
Published:
2/24/2016 4:51:38 PM


Historian and North Charleston Police Department Officer Reginald E. Sharp poses with his civil rights era scrapbook in his Lowcountry home. Photo: Hakim Abdul-Ali
 

Sharp’s collection included a rare copy of The Charleston Inquirer dated June 28, 1963. The frontpage headline reads “The Charleston Movement” which was an effort led by local African American civil rights groups seeking deliverance and freedom
 
By Hakim Abdul-Ali


The art of collecting things comes in many different facets and the craft is a passion for many Americans. One of the most illuminating topics of general concern for some select collectors is the collecting of historical items and artifacts.

Being a lifelong collector of the Black Experience, my own passions have taken me all over the world in pursuit of this unique and personal obsession. Along the way, I've met numerous, intense and dedicated collectors of varied ethnicities, who have amassed storied collections showcasing their valiant efforts.

One of these collectors, who I've come to know and respect, is Reginald E. Sharpe, who is an author, a historian and a committed collector of authentic law enforcement artifacts and memorabilia, among other source materials that interests him. Having known each other for some time and knowing my obsession with collecting things relating to the African-American experience, Mr. Sharpe had been inviting me to come and see a particular "rare" find that he had purchased some time ago that would possibly be of interest to me.

After not seeing him for a while, I recently ran into Mr. Sharpe, who close associates call Reggie, and I finally decided to take him up on his longstanding offer. What I saw was pure scholarly history related to the Black experience via an unusual piece of historical journalistic documents.

Mr. Sharpe showed me an amazing oversized scrapbook containing 100 pages of vintage newspaper articles and pictures mostly focusing on a specific time period of the 1963 calendar year. The 18" x 24" historical gem, in red front and back binding covers, centers on this pivotal year in the Civil Rights Movement ranging from early 1963 to August 1963, with comprehensive coverages of many documented events.

There are 1440 articles and pictures (Mr. Sharpe and I actually counted them individually), the majority of which are pasted to the scrapbook's light brown pages with light glue, and they are truly magnificently informative in the fact that they chronicle an important segment of twentieth century American History, complete with many unseen events and forgotten news photographs, for example, that many people may not have known existed.

Some of the news coverages came from respected journals like "The New York Times"and the old "Charleston Evening Post" and "The Charleston News and Courier" newspapers when they were separate published presses. Also, many articles were from diverse newspapers like "the Savannah Morning News," "The Baltimore Afro American" and from an obviously anti-civil rights and bigoted newspaper from Georgia called "The Augusta Courier."

What especially caught my interest on pages 22 and 23 in this scrapbook were two copies ( volume 1, #17 and #18) dated June 21,1963 and June 28, 1963, of "The Charleston Inquirer," a Charleston, South Carolina, African-American newspaper that I had never heard of previously, nor seen before. The newspaper's self-descriptive masthead's logo which read, "The Instrument as well as the Recorder of Progress," and those two issues revealed much that was happening in and on the local scene concerning Black self-empowerment.

Another intriguing article of interest was a July 14, 1963, piece that appeared on page 54 of the scrapbook which was entitled "What Price Integration?" by David Warren Ryder. It was a three page stimulating article that spoke of what integration really meant to the nation as Mr. Ryder saw it, and it was a "News and Courier" topical piece at that time.

As I perused and read further through many of the other reflective articles, I couldn't help but ask myself who would have put this now-relevant historical timepiece together and how exhausting, costly and time-consuming this project must have been. Mr. Sharpe related to me that he purchased this scrapbook at a flea market about five years ago for a hefty price from a vendor, who he said and believed, retrieved it from a trash bin somewhere.

There was no collector's name attached whatsoever attached to this precious discovery. This remarkable find loans credibility to the ancient adage that "another man's trash is another man's treasure."

All lovers of Black "Our--Story" and legitimate American historical information would marvel at the way some of the nation's press covered and reported on the African-American, African, civil rights, segregation, integration and other vehement racial issues of the day. This scrapbook tells a lot about the ongoing, vexing and seething racial climate that existed in this nation leading up to the historic civil marches and mass demonstrations that dominated the national news headlines for that period.

I was particularly intrigued by the organized way of the scrapbook's content which seemed to flow from day-to-day and from week-to-week just up to the March on Washington that took place in late August 1963. The scrapbook, overall, is truly an amazing collection of items covering known facts and obscure incidents revealing factual and opinionated views, along with sometimes scholarly journalistic insights into the civil rights activities, emerging race relations and the Black Power Movement happenings of this country during the beginnings of the turbulent '60s.

It's to be noted that Mr. Sharpe, who served honorably in the U.S. Navy, is a veteran police officer working for the North Charleston Police Department, a position that he has held for about five years. Prior to that he worked as an officer for the Charleston County Police Department for many, many years where he established a nationally recognized impressive record as a warrant officer.

Mr. Sharpe is the author of "True Tales From A Lowcountry Cop," and he's doing research on his next book which will specifically deal with the history of the Charleston Country Police Department. A true historian and committed collector to his heart, Mr. Sharpe has a wonderful and diverse library covering many historical, political, religious, law enforcement and sociological subjects in his extremely neat, tidy and organized home.

The love of history, without prejudice, is what drives this hard working law enforcement officer in his spare time to continue to study and learn. All of this was emphasized when he related "History is a rudder in which to steer and without knowledge of that you've got no way to steer accurately. Everything about history is not nice, and it's not always palatable. It gets glossed over for various reasons. I just enjoy looking for the truth."
 

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