ABOVE: Portrait of Khalil, Shirley, and Bernard Kinsey, Courtesy of The Kinsey African American Art & History Collection
Opening January 12, 2024, this groundbreaking exhibition features over 100 works of art, photographs, rare documents and more, celebrating the achievements and contributions of Black Americans from 1595 to the present day.
The Holocaust Museum Houston (HMH) recently announced that the widely acclaimed exhibition, The Kinsey African American Art & History Collection, celebrating the achievements and contributions of Black Americans from 1595 to the present, is coming to Houston January 12 through June 23, 2024. Considered one of the most comprehensive surveys of African American history and culture outside of the Smithsonian Institution, the exhibition will feature over 100 of the shared treasures amassed by Bernard and Shirley Kinsey during their five decades of marriage. Presented by Shell USA and on view in the Josef and Edith Mincberg Gallery, the collection includes masterful paintings and sculptures, photographs, rare books, letters, manuscripts, and more, including several new and yet-to-be seen pieces in the collection.
The Kinsey Collection has been cited in three national awards, including the National Medal for Museum and Library Service. Garnering national media attention and experienced by more than 16 million people, the groundbreaking exhibition has toured more than 35 cities in the U.S. and internationally, including the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, EPCOT Walt Disney World, the University of Hong Kong Museum and Gallery and California’s SoFi Stadium, to name a few.
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 today. Important objects 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. A history of African Americans in art is charted through works by numerous celebrated artists, including Charles Alston, Richard Barthé, Bisa Butler, Elizabeth Catlett, Alma Thomas, Laura Wheeler Waring, Houston’s own Ava Cosey and many more.
Bernard and Shirley Kinsey, Floridians by birth and graduates of Florida A&M University, began collecting to remember their travels. Soon their collection became a repository for African American intellectual, historical and artistic works. The Kinseys believe their collection helps give a well-rounded look at the African American experience and the integral roles African Americans played in building this country, providing new perspectives on chapters of the nation’s history which have been ignored. Bernard and Shirley’s son, Khalil Kinsey, serves as General Manager and Chief Curator for the collection and exhibitions.
“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. Khalil adds, “This is an American story, and most people only know a fraction of it.”
A central theme of the exhibit is the Myth of Absence – that contributions made by African Americans in industry, art, science and politics have been omitted from history books. This exhibit aims to dispel this myth and provide the narrative of the full and rich contributions of African Americans to the building and shaping of the United States.
“The Kinsey Collection highlights the resilience of African Americans despite a long history of discrimination and trauma,” said Alex Hampton, HMH’s changing exhibitions manager. “It also shows the vital contributions Black people have made to American society despite this history.
As a Holocaust and Human Rights museum, we want our exhibitions to bring communities together by illuminating the similarities in our histories while also keeping in mind the differences.”
The Kinsey Collection contains many parallels to the lessons of the Holocaust. Conscious decisions were made by individuals, institutions and governments to allow the Holocaust to happen, just as the United States made choices to enslave, segregate and marginalize Black Americans. History has shown us from events of the Holocaust, if the rights of any group are taken away or threatened, this threatens the rights of all of us. Decisions have consequences and doing nothing is also a choice.
The exhibition’s community programming is being developed in collaboration with an exhibition advisory committee comprised of Black leaders, artists, educators and activists from the greater Houston area and chaired by Eileen Lawal, Barry Mandel and Dr. Mia Wright. Special tours, performances, talks, educator workshops, school tours, youth programs, and more will be hosted at HMH and virtually during the exhibition. Details are forthcoming and can be found at hmh.org/events.
The Kinsey African American Art & History Collection is curated by Khalil B. Kinsey and Larry Earl and organized by The Bernard & Shirley Kinsey Foundation for Arts & Education and KBK Enterprises, Incorporated. For more information, visit hmh.org/Kinsey.
The Houston exhibition is generously supported by Presenting Sponsor Shell USA; Premier Sponsor The Moody Foundation; Anchor Sponsors H-E-B and PNC Bank; Partner Sponsors CoreBridge Financial and Wortham Foundation; Title Sponsors Springer Family Charitable Fund and Wells Fargo; Lead Sponsors Carolyn Benton Aiman, Enbridge, The Friedkin Group, JPMorgan Chase and the Ronald Grabois Family Endowment Fund; and Exhibition Friends Cheryl and Steve Golub, Barbara J. and Buddy Herz, Marvalette and Newal Hunter and Marcia D. West and Ronald C. Lewis.
Holocaust Museum Houston, Lester and Sue Smith Campus, is fully bilingual in English and Spanish. Located at 5401 Caroline Street, HMH is closed Mondays except Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Memorial Day and Labor Day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. The Museum’s Legacy Café is open during Museum hours. Admission is $22 for adults; $16 for seniors (ages 65+), AARP members and active duty servicemembers; always free for children and students ages 18 and under and college students with valid ID; and free to all visitors Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Parking is available at the Museum’s adjacent lot for $8 for a four-hour period. Tickets are available exclusively online. For more information, visit hmh.org/visit.