After an impressive five year run in Florida on display at Disney World’s Epcot center. The Kinsey Collection, an award-winning and inspiring collection of African American art and historical memorabilia has made its way to the Dallas African American Museum. Open to the public from Sept 21, 2019 to March 1, 2020 the over two hundred pieces of art and artifacts is the most extensive display ever of the Kinsey family’s collection (and still just a portion of what is considered the largest personal collection of its kind). The exhibit spans the 1500’s to the present day and includes everything from masterful paintings by renowned artists Romare Bearden and Charles White; to artifacts such as the document recording the first ever baptism of an African American in 1595.
Having exhibited their collection in museums around the country including the Smithsonian and even overseas at the University of Hong Kong, the Kinseys (Bernard, Shirley and their son Khalil) are committed to sharing their love of African American history. At recent the opening of the exhibit Bernard Kinsey shared that “One of their primary goals is to shed light on the true impact of American Americans who were often invisible participants in American history, because many our contributions have been overlooked and written out of history books.” More than just a history lesson, the collection is designed to add context to the roles of racism, enslavement and African American achievement and their repercussions that reverberate to this day.
“Perhaps a couple hundred people would get to experience this version of history if we kept it on our walls at home,” explains Shirley Kinsey. “This way we get to share it with the world.” To date, over well over five million persons have seen their collection. Curated and conceived by Khalil Kinsey and Larry Earl, the current exhibit goes well beyond artwork and photography to include literature, correspondence, newspaper clippings and even a parade flag of the famed Buffalo Soldiers circa 1889. A poignant letter from America’s darkest era epitomized the cowardly and inhumane treatment of enslaved people in this country. The letter, delivered unwittingly by the woman who was being sold from one slaveholder to another, extolled her virtues as a housekeeper and described the former slaveholder’s refusal to tell the young woman that she was being sold; “As to not create a scene as she was separated from her family.”
There are surprising personal items like a scathing, but eloquent, “Dear John” letter from Zora Neale Hurston that is unflinching in its indictment of a man she believed dishonestly duped her into marriage. An original volume of poetry from Phyllis Wheatley and an illustrated biography of Frederick Douglass are just some of the literary works of art on display. If you’re planning a visit to Dallas in the next 6 months make sure to visit. If you’re not– perhaps you should adjust your schedule to experience a piece of American history that casts an honest and reverent eye on an underreported part of American history and what it means to us today. You can follow The Kinsey Collection and check out more photos and videos on Instagram @TheKinseyCollection