Access to pertinent information about the contributions and life of African Americans from 1632 to present has been problematic for schools and the general public, and accurate information is often non-existent or distorted in curricula and popular media.

The correct exhibition title is The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey – Bernard & Shirley Kinsey: Where Art & History Intersect is an answer to this dilemma. The exhibit and coffee table book tells the extraordinary history of the African-American experience, much of which was previously unknown to the public and even historians, with vivid artifacts, rarely seen slave owner’s documents to brilliant expressions of genius to glimpse of private eighteenth/nineteenth-century lives.

“It (The Kinsey Collection) 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,” said Bernard Kinsey as he and his wife Shirley and son Khalil stood before the crowded room of art lovers at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture.

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.

The collection 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 has been displayed at numerous museums across the states, including the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. The exhibit, that opened Nov. 2, will be on display until March 2, 2014.

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AFRO photos shown in the above slideshow