Art collection showcases black history

Florida A&M University students will get a taste of culture and find ancient artifacts within the personal art collection of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey at the Mary Brogan Museum of Art & Science starting September 11.

The museum will host, The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey, “Where art and history intersect,” a collection of black art and artifacts ranging from the early 1600s to present.

The Kinseys, both FAMU alumni, have been building their personal collection for more than 30 years. The collection is the winner of the 2009 Golden Achievement Award, the Sunshine Medallion Award and the 2008 National Medal for Museum and Library Services.

The exhibit includes more than 100 rare black history artifacts such as the first African-American published book of poetry, “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral,” written by Phyllis Wheatley, an original transcript of the Emancipation Proclamation, a letter to Alex Haley from Malcolm X, and a Civil War recruitment poster for black soldiers.

Bernard Kinsey believes his collection humanizes black history.

“Our collection brings to light the extraordinary triumphs and accomplishments of our ancestors, and in doing so, gives these individuals a voice, a personality, and a name,” Kinsey said.

Trish Hanson, chief operating officer for the Brogan Museum, feels that seeing this collection will help people understand and admire the contributions and history of blacks.

“Anyone who comes to visit [the exhibit] will walk away with a different understanding of the significance African-Americans have had to this country for centuries,” said Hanson. “When you read some of these stories of what these individuals had to go through, it’s truly inspirational.”

For Kinsey, bringing this collection to Tallahassee represented sentimental value. He and his wife met while they were students at FAMU during the 1960s.

“It is a big deal for the Kinsey family and we owe a lot to FAMU,” said Kinsey. “[Me and Mrs. Kinsey] met at FAMU and I have 19 or 20 nieces and nephews that go to FAMU as well.”

According to Kinsey, a member of the Kinsey clan has been enrolled at FAMU for the past 50 years.

For the students, Kinsey sees this exhibit as a rare but beneficial opportunity. The exhibit is free for FAMU students.

“They are going to get a chance to see documents rarely seen outside of museums like the Smithsonian,” Kinsey said.

Chester Williams, an art professor at FAMU, believes that this is an opportunity for students to broaden their horizons and learn about the history and legacy of African-Americans.

“Students need to go to activities like this to get exposed to these cultural things,” Williams said.

The collection, which has previously been on display in Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Ohio, Chicago and West Palm Beach will be on display at the Brogan Museum through March 21, 2010.

For more information on The Kinsey Collection, call 850-513-077o or visit