PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WTKR) – Inside a storage unit in Portsmouth, Va., Emanuel Yancey has a story to tell.
“When I saw that I said, it’s powerful,” Yancey said, pointing to a newspaper article from the 1940s. “I couldn’t find it anywhere.”
The story of a black woman who was probably a pioneer. Ms. EK Wilson was a business owner in 1949. She ran her hair salon for nearly five decades in a male-dominated industry.
“She was not just a barber, but a master barber,” Yancey said.
Yancey said Wilson is a big part of the story.
“For us being just business owners is important, but when you have a female business owner in the 40’s and then in an all-male profession, I think that’s very important to the story,” did he declare.
During a bidding war, Yancey won the storage unit for just under $ 500.
One of the first things he noticed was a Wilson barber chair. Then he dug a little deeper and made an invaluable discovery.
Yancey found a schedule for a “Women’s Day” event. Ms. Martin Luther King Jr. was the guest speaker.
“This program here is in great shape,” Yancey said. “It was exciting. It was really exciting for me because not only was Ms. EK Wilson important, but the people she knew and visited the same places as Ms. King.
Yancey found other unknown treasures, including a photo of Dr. King himself, piles of vintage jewelry, and even sports memorabilia.
“Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali, Buster Douglas,” Yancey said, showing off signed boxing gloves.
Yancey plans to sell most of his historic finds and use the money to continue paying for it through the non-profit Emanuel’s HOPE Foundation.
“I want to highlight the needs of our seniors in our community,” he said.
What started as a gesture to help his grandmother when he was little, Yancey now gives of his time to help other seniors who are financially or physically unable to maintain their lawns.
“It has been difficult for a lot of our seniors and they are an underserved community but a growing community, so my heart goes out to them,” said Yancey. “I want to give them that feeling my grandma had when she looked at her lawn and said, wow that’s beautiful.”
As for some of the nostalgia in Yancey’s storage unit, he’s still looking for what to sell. As to how much it could all be worth.
“I would say it’s priceless,” he said. “It’s hard to put any value on it.
This story was originally reported by Antoinette DelBel on WTKR.com.