Imagine gazing at verses of poetry written in the 18th century by African American poet Phillis Wheatley.
Or browsing through an 1832 account of how runaway Harriet Jacobs hid in an attic –for seven years—from vicious slaveholders.
Or looking at a letter from Malcolm X to biographer Alex Haley two years before the Black Muslim leader was gunned down.
Such artifacts are to be on display at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture from Nov. 1 through March 2, 2014, thanks to Wells Fargo and the family of Bernard Kinsey, a retired Xerox executive who, along with his wife, has amassed a collection of African American artifacts.
The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey – Where Art & History Intersect – includes:
• An early draft of the Emancipation Proclamation;
• Original works by Frederick Douglass
• A 1604 original copy about Africa before the slave trade, written by Leo Africanus, an African;
• and documentation of how the estimated 38,000 cowboys that helped shape the
U.S.’s Old West, included about 10,000 Blacks.
“The Kinsey Collection strives to give our ancestors a voice, name and personality, enabling the viewer to understand the challenges, obstacles, triumphs and extraordinary sacrifice of African Americans who’ve greatly contributed to the success of this country,” says Bernard Kinsey. “We are excited to collaborate with Wells Fargo in developing this special program honoring the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.”
The exhibit began as just a hobby for Bernard and Shirley Kinsey, but according to their son, Khalil, that changed after the couple came across an 1832 bill of sale for an enslaved person by the name of William Johnson.
“Finding this piece gave my father chills,” says Khalil Kinsey. “He wanted to know everything about this individual and then it also, more importantly, made him want to find out more about how African Americans came to find themselves in this predicament in America and how they made it through it… so that’s what really sparked the collection.”
The Lewis museum exhibit marks the last stop on a year-long, cross-country tour for the collection that coincides with the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
“The Kinsey Collection is one of the more diverse collections of African American art and artifacts in the country,” says Dr. Michelle Joan Wilkinson, director of collections and exhibitions, Reginald F. Lewis Museum. “Bernard and Shirley Kinsey have taken care to select items that paint a broad picture of the many accomplishments that African Americans have made to our nation and the world.
We are especially proud that Marylander Frederick Douglass is among those who are featured.”
“I am especially excited about the Kinsey Collection because it provides unique access to authentic documents that allow us to relive major historical moments,” says Dr. A. Skipp Sanders, executive director for the Reginald F. Lewis Museum. “It is a privilege for us to bring an exhibition to Maryland that has gained so much prominence throughout the country.”
The exhibit will open on Nov. 2 and end on March 2, 2014. Tickets will be eight dollars for general admission, six dollars for senior citizens (65+), and children ages 7-17. Children under six years of age, Maryland state public school teachers, and members of the museum are to be admitted free of charge.