From Ancestry Project to Powerful Exhibition: Kinseys Chronicle 500 Years of Black History, Art

An expansive view of African American history and art is now on display at the Tacoma Art Museum.

Shirley and Bernard Kinsey began collecting after their son came home from school with questions about black history.

“He had this report to make, and he came home saying he had kids who could go back to the Mayflower… and we could only go back to Florida,” says Shirley Kinsey.

Now the Kinsey African American Art and History Collection has over 150 exhibits, with artifacts dating back 500 years. It includes paintings by 19th-century black artists, the first known black baptismal record, a book about the first black explorer to reach the North Pole, a letter from Malcolm X, a program of the 1963 March on Washington, and more. Again.

It is considered to be one of the most comprehensive surveys of African American history and culture outside of the Smithsonian Institution.

KNKX’s Anya Steinberg caught up with the Kinsey family to hear about their legendary collection.


The Kinsey exhibit runs through November 28 at Tacoma Art Museum, 1701 Pacific Ave, Tacoma.

About Margaret L. Portillo

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