Tour Black history through tapestry of Black artwork

Philanthropists link art and history in Kinsey collection

Carla St.Louis | 3/20/2014, 9 a.m.
Florida natives Bernard Kinsey and his wife, Shirley, want Blacks and whites to remember Black history. So much in fact ...
Bernard Kinsey, Shirley Kinsey and their son, Khalil shared a pose at the Kinsey collection on display at Disney World in Orlando. Miami Times photo/Carla St. Louis

Florida natives Bernard Kinsey and his wife, Shirley, want Blacks and whites to remember Black history.

So much in fact that the couple personally curated, The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey Where Art and History Intersect, a book with images on the state of Black life spanning from Africa, Europe and the Americas.

“As our life together has evolved, so too has our collecting,” reads the Kinseys' introduction on page three. “Shirley has been clear from the start that we should tell a positive story of African American accomplishments and triumphs rather than concentrating on the despicable history of oppression that haunts Black people in this country.”

The Kinsey Collection consists of letters, postcards, books, photographs and government documents. These artifacts, collected over a time span of 35 years, give a statistical picture of the life of Blacks at the turn of the century.

The 191-page tome also includes little known treasures from South Florida's Black history. For example, page 84 features an official report on the incident that occurred in Rosewood, Florida where the town of Rosewood was burned to the ground by angry whites.

What started as a personal art collection quickly grew into a traveling exhibit and book. Governmental agencies took notice, specifically the Florida Department of Education, which adopted The Kinsey Collection as the basis for instruction for 3.6 million students on African American History.

“The real history of African American triumphs and contributions should no longer remain a secret,” said Bernard Kinsey, a long time philanthropist. “It should explode into our classrooms and into our collective conscience.”

On another page, a graphic drawing shows hundreds of Africans, packed like sardines on a ship, after being sold as slaves for work in America.

The illustration, titled The History of the Rise, Progress and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave-Trade by the British Parliament, 1808 shows how Blacks slept in tight quarters for hours while traveling from Africa before many died during the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

The Kinsey Collection is currently on exhibit at Walt Disney World in Orlando. It has been featured at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach and the Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science in Tallahassee.

For more information, log on to http://thekinseycollection.com.