New exhibit aims to inspire, educate

By Becky Mayad

The African American Museum, Dallas in Fair Park will present the widely acclaimed exhibition, The Kinsey African American Art & History Collection, celebrating the achievements and contributions of black Americans from 1595 to present times. Considered one of the most comprehensive surveys of African-American history and culture outside the Smithsonian Institution, the exhibition will feature 197 of the shared treasures amassed by Shirley and Bernard Kinsey during their five decades of marriage. The collection includes masterful paintings and sculpture, photos, rare books, letters, manuscripts and more. Presented by Toyota Motor North America, the exhibition will run Sept. 21, 2019-March 1, 2020. The Museum is located at 3536 Grand Ave. in Dallas’ historic Fair Park. Tickets may be purchased online at or at the museum.  

Photo courtesy of the AAM

Garnering national media attention and experienced by more than 15 million people, the groundbreaking exhibition has toured 30 cities in the U.S. and internationally, including 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. The exhibition has been cited in three national awards, including the National Medal for Museum and Library Service.

Representing the intersection between art and history, The Kinsey Collection covers the lives and artistry of African-American people from the 16th century through the years of slavery and emancipation, to the civil rights movement and modern day. Highlights include bills of sale, advertisements, letters and legal papers documenting the slave trade; hand-colored tintypes from the Civil War era; art and literature from the Harlem Renaissance; and items spotlighting key moments in the civil rights movement, including the Woolworth store boycotts and the 1963 March on Washington. 

Shirley and Bernard Kinsey, Floridians by birth and graduates of Florida A&M University, began collecting as a way to remember their travels, but their collection soon became a repository for African-American intellectual, historical and artistic works. The Kinseys believe their collection helps give a well-rounded look at the African-American experience and the integral roles African Americans played in building this country, providing new perspectives on the nation’s history. The collection has turned into a family affair, with the Kinsey’s son, Khalil, serving as general manager and chief curator.

“The Kinsey Collection strives to give our ancestors a voice, name and personality, enabling the viewer to understand the challenges, obstacles, triumphs, accomplishments and extraordinary sacrifice of African Americans in building this country,” said Bernard Kinsey.

A history of the African American in art is charted through works by numerous celebrated artists, including Alma Thomas, Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Aaron Douglas, Sam Gilliam, Charles White, Palmer Hayden, Augusta Savage, Lois Mailou Jones, Artis Lane, James Porter, Robert S. Duncanson and many more.

Other items include the earliest-known black baptism record and black marriage record; a 1773 first-edition copy of poems by Phillis Wheatley; an 1853 copy of author Solomon Northrup’s 12 Years A Slave (which was made into a movie and won the Academy Award for Best Picture); and a copy of the 1857 Dred Scott Decision. Other noteworthy items include an early version of the Emancipation Proclamation; an illustration of the “first colored senator and representatives” in the 41st and 42nd U.S. Congress; a 1901 copy of Booker T. Washington’s “Up From Slavery”; a letter from Malcolm X to Alex Haley, author of “Roots: The Saga of an American Family”; and a signed copy of the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling, a landmark legal decision made in 1954 by the Supreme Court ending the legal barriers to Jim Crow and segregation. 

While this is the first time in two years that the comprehensive collection will be seen in America, North Texans did get a preview of the collection in 2018 when selections were on view at Toyota Motor North America’s headquarters in Plano. Also, works of art showcasing the Harlem Renaissance were featured at the Plano Art Centre.

“Toyota Motor North America is pleased to support the African American Museum, Dallas in presenting The Kinsey Collection, a monumental exhibition that educates, inspires and helps us to appreciate the enormous and vital contributions made by African-American people over the past four centuries,” said Al Smith, group vice president and chief social innovation officer, Toyota Motor North America. “Toyota hosted a Juneteenth exhibition at our headquarters last year, and, based on that sneak peek, we greatly encourage families, students and educators, State Fair of Texas visitors and civic leaders to take advantage of this must-see experience.” 

The arrival of The Kinsey Collection comes as the African American Museum, Dallas celebrates its 45th year and on the heels of the successful Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello — Paradox of Liberty traveling exhibition, which attracted the largest crowds since the museum’s 1974 opening. 

“We are so grateful for the support of Toyota Motor North America in allowing the African American Museum, Dallas to share the Kinsey family’s beloved collection to North Texas,” said Dr. Harry Robinson, Jr., the museum’s president and CEO. “Being able to share this powerful retrospective of African American history and culture that shaped our country is especially meaningful as the African American Museum marks its 45th year.”

As part of the exhibition, the museum will host a multi-topic lecture series and book signings. Tours and a comprehensive educational curriculum will be offered for schoolchildren participating in field trips. 

Additionally, a richly illustrated book with a foreword by Douglas A. Blackmon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II,” accompanies the exhibition and will be available for sale in the museum shop along with other gift items from the Collection. 

Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for seniors (65 and older) and children ages 4-12, and free for children 3 and under. Admission is free on Thursdays for seniors 65 and older. African American Museum members also receive free admission. 

Tickets may be purchased at or at the museum, which is located at 3536 Grand Ave. in Dallas’ historic Fair Park.