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Basketball's Chris Webber gives a clinic – in African-American lore

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"[Malcolm X] is coming back from Mecca, and this postcard has a monkey on the front of it, and he makes a joke about how it's funny that in some places the monkey gets more respect than the black man," Webber says. "Today one would probably use e-mail, but for a personal postcard to be able to have that kind of personal message makes it very special for me."

The earliest piece Webber owns is a first edition, printed in London, of Phillis Wheatley's "Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral" (1773).

"Wheatley had to go before [Founding Father] John Hancock and recite parts of paragraphs in order to prove that a woman could actually do these things," Webber says.

It's a rare object. Very few items connected with Wheatley, who died in poverty, still exist, says Michelle LeBlanc, education director of Boston's Old South Meeting House, where Wheatley attended church. Aside from the book, she says, "There's a desk owned by the Massachusetts Historical Society."

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