TAM Presents the Kinsey African American Art and History Collection

Come this summer, the Tacoma Art Museum is thrilled to 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 over 150 of the shared treasures amassed by Shirley and Bernard Kinsey during their five decades of marriage.

Representing the intersection between art and history, the exhibition covers the lives, accomplishments, and artistry of African Americans from the 16th century through the years of slavery and emancipation, to the civil rights movement and modern day. Important examples 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.

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

#37 Dunson The Cultivator

While this exhibition has been shown in numerous locations covering the Eastern Seaboard, the Midwest, the South, the Mid-South, the Southwest, and the West Coast, this will be the first time the exhibition has been presented in the Pacific Northwest. 

According to Bernard Kinsey, “Our collection has been front-page news all over the world, from Hong Kong, to Colombia, to Dallas, Texas. It represents an opportunity for people in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho to see books, manuscripts and paintings that they will never have a chance to see again, outside of our nation’s capital. People, you are not going to see this unless you go to TAM.”

David F. Setford, TAM’s Executive Director, said, “When I travelled to Dallas in September 2019 to see this exhibition and meet the Kinseys, I was overwhelmed. I was amazed by the power of the documents, and works of art on display, by their ability to tell an untold story, and by the commitment of the Kinseys to share that story. I resolved that we needed to tell this story at TAM.  Then, as 2020 rolled in, the relevancy of the choice of this exhibition to our region and to the Museum’s DEIA work became even clearer.”

The exhibition’s presentation at TAM and related community programming is being developed in collaboration with a Kinsey Collection Advisory Committee, comprised of 18 Black leaders, artists, educators, and activists from the greater Tacoma area. Special tours, performances, talks, youth programs, and more will be hosted at TAM and virtually during the exhibition. For more information, visit the Tacoma Art Museum website.