Khalil, Shirley and Bernard Kinsey. Courtesy of Kent Phillips
The Culivators by Samuel L. Dunson, Jr.
The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass
Portrait Bust of an African (original cast of Slave Boy) by May Howard Jackson
A piece from the Harlem Renaissance gallery: Paul Robeson in the Song of Freedom, 1936.
Woman Wearing Orange Scarf by Wheeler Waring
Parisian Cubism by Hale Woodruff
After 53 years of marriage and more than 150 art and historical piece collected as a couple, Bernard and Shirley Kinsey are finally bringing their groundbreaking exhibition to Dallas. Along with their son Khalil, who serves as general manager and chief curator, the family has exhibited in 31 cities around the world.
The Kinsey African American Art & History Collection will open this Saturday, September 21 at the African American Museum in Fair Park and will on display through March 1. The exhibition features paintings, sculpture, photos, rare books, letters, manuscripts and more.
PaperCity received a sneak peak of the collection, as it was still having the final touches put on at the museum.
Shirley and Bernard first got started collecting when Khalil was in fifth grade. Assigned a family history report in school, Khalil and his parents worked to find out as much as they could about their background. They came to realize that they had a lot to discover about their culture.
Being a big supporter of “knowing who you are and where you come from,” Khalil Kinesy’s motto is to Learn, Use, Teach.
“I think this is one of our largest, or the largest show,” he says. “It’s not just black history, it’s American history. It’s beyond pain and struggle.”
Khalil notes the three galleries that the collection is sorted into. The first gallery starts in 1595 with the earliest known black baptism document and a 1595 black marriage certificate.
“These are the things that we were left out of in history,” Bernard Kinsey says. “What our family has done has put us in history books.”
Explained as the Myth of Absence, Bernard talks about how African Americans are invisibly present. “It’s like they photoshopped us out of everything of significance,” he says.
Yes, we know about slavery, but what the Kinsey family is hoping to emphasize is all that African Americans contributed besides their sacrifice. “We’re putting us in the story,” Bernard says.
The second gallery features the Harlem Renaissance. It’s a bright yellow room including paintings, photos and letters. There’s even a fun love letter from one woman to her ex-husband on display.
“It’s like they photoshopped us out of everything of significance.”
This room features the “explosion of creativity and intellect,” Khalil notes. “It was about literature, scholarship, and community.” The first recipient of the Harmon Foundation award, Gusting Up to 35 by Palmer Hayden is on display. Photographs by James Van Der Zee hang on the walls as well.
And lastly, the third gallery holds current artist’s works including many paintings. The earliest work from an African American artist that the Kinseys have is from 1865.
“Everything in the collection is a primary source,” Bernard says. He notes that they only bring the show to those who invite them, which includes some pretty impressive places.
The exhibit has already been seen by more than 15 million people at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, National Underground Freedom Center, Walt Disney World’s Epcot, California African American Museum, and the University of Hong Kong Museum to name a few. It’s also earned the National Medal for Museum and Library Service. In other words, it’s a must-see.
And Shirley’s message to all: “Go through all boxes of things at home. Our history is in our hands now.”
Tickets are available for $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and kids. During the State Fair (Sep. 27 to Oct. 20), the museum will be open daily from 10 am to 7 pm. Otherwise, hours are Tuesdays through Fridays from 11 am to 5 pm and Saturdays from 10 am to 5 pm.
Click through the photo gallery above and below this story for more of a sneak peek at the amazing collection.