The Kinsey Collection: Couples’ priceless black art tours the country

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Hot on the heels of leading a well-received workshop at the National Association of Black Journalists convention, Bernard Kinsey has just hopped on a plane to North Carolina to give a talk on art, history and philanthropy.

Mr. Kinsey’s intrepid globetrotting mirrors his passion to showcase African-American achievement and contribution. The sprightly 69-year-old, along with his wife, Shirley, have amassed one of the largest private collections of artifacts tracing black history spanning more than 400 years.

“The Kinsey Collection strives to give our ancestors a voice, personality and name, enabling the viewer to understand the remarkable accomplishments and triumphs of African-Americans,” Kinsey told theGrio hours before his Charlotte-bound flight.

In fact, what started as a husband and wife hobby to collect mementos on their travels has over the course of 30 years turned into a labor of love. The outcome is a staggering national touring exhibit of rare art, manuscripts, paintings, prints, sculpture, and photographs.

Some of the most notable items include letters by Zora Neale Hurston and Martin Luther King, Jr., correspondence between Malcolm X and his biographer Alex Haley, slave shackles, a first-edition copy of poems by Phillis Wheatley, and 17th-century slave documents.

It also consists of works by renowned African-American artists such as Romare Bearden, Henry O. Tanner, Richmond Barthé, Lois Mailou Jones, Richard Mayhew, Artis Lane, and Jacob Lawrence.

It was in 2007 that the collection – 400 items in total – first went on national tour. Since then, The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey has been displayed at numerous museums across the states, including in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

It is an opportunity to educate, motivate and inspire people to learn more about the extraordinary, and often untold, stories of African-Americans in building the country, says Kinsey.

‘People will leave saying, ‘I didn’t know that.’ It will change their view of African-Americans and the African-American experience.”

The EPCOT Center Walt Disney World Resort has roughly 40 pieces at any given time on a rotating basis through 2016. It was last week that black journalists at the NABJ 2013 convention took time from networking to attend Kinsey’s workshop at the center.

“We wanted the widest possible audience to experience the collection. So we are thrilled to be collaborating with Disney,” says the Los-Angeles-based philanthropist and entrepreneur.

Photographic images from the collection have also morphed into a coffee table book that serves as a companion to the exhibit. The book has been adopted by the Florida Department of Education to teach African-American history to K-12 students.

On display as a year-long national tour in collaboration with Wells Fargo & Company, The Kinsey Collection will be at the Harvey B. Gantt Center through October 2013 and then will move to the Baltimore’s Reginald F. Lewis Museum in November.

In its latest incarnation, a host of celebs have come on board to support the Wells Fargo celebratory tour to honor of the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Jordin Sparks, Lauren London, Lance Gross and Talib Kweli all serve as featured curators in a four-part short film series taking viewers through specific points in history represented by artifacts in The Kinsey Collection.

“I want to challenge the ‘myth of black absence’ and showcase what you didn’t learn at school,” says Kinsey.

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