Opening! The Kinsey Collection of African American Art and History at MoAD

Exactly 150 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring, “all persons held as slaves” shall be “forever free.” And, the Museum of the African Diaspora is honoring this anniversary with an exhibit of African American art and history from the Kinsey Collection.

More than 100 artifacts, documents, and works of art gathered by Bernard and Shirley Kinsey over the past 35 years are on display through May. The exhibit includes an early copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, letters by Zora Neale Hurston and Malcolm X, and art by masters such as Jacob Lawrence, Gordon Parks, and Alma Thomas. 

“We’re not interested in the awful story,” Bernard Kinsey said at a press preview of the show. “We’re interested in all of the people that overcame struggle and we want to celebrate them.”

The exhibition gives a unique look into the lives of African Americans in the U.S. over the last few centuries. Besides beautiful pieces of art, the idea is to show viewers more about the country’s rich history. It’s a chronological exhibit that starts with artifacts from the slave trade, goes through the civil war, the right to vote, the civil rights movement, and ends with contemporary African American art.

Bernard and Shirley Kinsey have a voracious appetite for history and are well known for being prolific collectors of cultural art. Their collection has been selected as one of the “top ten exhibits to see in the world” and was also awarded The President’s Medal for Museum and Library Services.

“We all have holes in our hearts and that hole is what we don’t know about ourselves and where we came from. There’s that need to know,” Mr. Kinsey said. “We want to leave a little legacy about our history in the world.”

The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey, Where Art and History Intersect will be on exhibit at the Museum of the African Diaspora through May 19.

All images are courtesy of the Museum of the African Diaspora