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From ancestry project to powerful exhibit: Kinseys chronicle 500 years of Black history, art

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

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

"He had this report to do, and he came home saying that he had kids who could go back to the Mayflower ... and we could only go back to Florida," Shirley Kinsey explains.

Now the Kinsey African American Art & History Collection has more than 150 pieces, with artifacts dating back 500 years. It includes paintings by 19th-century Black artists, the first-known Black baptismal record, a book by the first Black explorer to reach the North Pole, a letter from Malcolm X, a program from 1963's March on Washington and much more.

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

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


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