Kinsey Exhibit on African American Art and History Opens in Panama City

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PANAMA CITY — A celebration of the current years, “Treasures from Kinsey’s Collection of African-American Art and History,” opened Friday at Florida State University Panama City.

“History is not black history; it is American history,” said Bernard Kinsey, whose collection with his wife, Shirley, spans more than 40 years. “We’re really proud of our work and think it’s the kind of work America needs right now.”

The world famous exhibit was originally slated to come to FSU PC in 2019. Plans were underway before Hurricane Michael hit in October 2018 and then came the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

The Kinsey African American Art & History Collection exhibit at FSU Panama City includes this bronze bust of Frederick Douglass.  Artist Tina Allen completed the piece in 2003.

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“We are honored to have an exhibition of this caliber coming to FSU Panama City,” said Dean Randy Hanna. “This collection documents not only American history, but also the enormous contribution of black artists to American culture.”

Exhibit hours will be noon to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday through mid-July. The exhibit is also available for viewing by appointment for individuals and groups, including schools and other organizations.

About the Kinsey Collection

Florida natives Bernard and Shirley Kinsey met at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee in 1963, and after marrying in 1967, they set a goal of traveling to 100 countries in their lifetime. The Kinsey collection began with the couple’s desire to instill in their son, Khalil, an appreciation for the arts of cultures around the world and to support emerging artists.

But it was their son’s family history assignment for school, when they realized they could only trace their family tree back four generations, that led them to “rediscover” African-American history. American that had not been told.

Bernard and Shirley Kinsey laugh with the audience on Friday at the opening of the "Treasures from the Kinsey Collection of African American Art and History" exhibit at FSU Panama City.

“Really, we think this is a human story about human experience and connection, illuminating the unknown story,” said Khalil Kinsey, chief operating officer and curator of the collection.

The exhibit tells stories of African American resilience, creativity and achievement over more than 400 years through paintings, sculptures, manuscripts, rare books and documents – from the bronze bust of Frederick Douglass to letters from Malcolm X and the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Rare, primary source historical objects and artifacts date from 1595 to the present day, and art created by African American artists dates from 1865.

Bernard Kinsey refers to the “myth of absence”, explaining that the contributions of African Americans, whether in science, industry, politics or art, have been omitted from history books and that the Kinsey African American Art and History Collection aims to provide the narrative. The Florida Department of Education has adopted the Kinsey Collection as the basis for teaching 3.6 million students about African American history. The Kinseys also published a companion book, “The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey”, featuring items on display in the exhibit and other items of interest in their collection.

Over the past 15 years, the exhibit has been viewed by more than 15 million people around the world at locations including the Smithsonian, Disney’s EPCOT, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago, and in Hong Kong. Most recently, the Kinsey collection exhibited at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles during Super Bowl 2022.

For more information, visit pc.fsu.edu/kinsey.

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