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Meet the family sharing Black history with Tacoma through their extraordinary art collection

The Kinsey family mission is to fill in gaps erased by history. #k5evening

TACOMA, Wash. — There's a signed letter from Malcolm X, a bust of Frederick Douglas and a portrait of a woman with gold earrings, her wrists shackled in brass,

They’re all part of the Kinsey African American Art and History Collection on exhibit at the Tacoma Art Museum. On a recent visit to Tacoma, the Kinsey family explained why they share their collection.

“Mark Twain has a great saying,” says Bernard Kinsey. “'What gets us in trouble isn't what we know, but what we think we know and it just ain't so'. And most of what white Americans and black Americans have been taught just ain't so.”

Retired Xerox executive Bernard Kinsey and his wife Shirley say the story of Black Americans has been largely kept out of history books. When their son Khalil tried to do a family history assignment for school, he could only go back four generations.

His white classmates could go back centuries.

“And I remember having a lot of questions,” says Khalil Kinsey. “And my parents remember not having a lot of answers.”

That is the inspiration for what has become a ten million dollar art collection, teeming with documents, books and art.

Credit: KING TV
The Kinsey Collection will be on exhibit through November 28 at the Tacoma Art Museum

Khalil Kinsey says the treasures have changed his life.

“Because I learned about myself,” he says. “I understood more of why we are in this predicament in America around race. And this knot that we just can't seem to untangle.”

Khalil Kinsey is now the curator of a collection that has been shared with more than 15 million people at the Smithsonian, in Hong Kong, and now here in Tacoma.

“When you go through the Kinsey collection, you begin for the first time to see America with 20/20 vision,” says Bernard Kinsey. “And I really believe that until you understand the African-American story, you really have cataracts.”

The Kinseys are passionate about their life's work: writing the wrongs of the historical record.

The Kinsey Collection will be on exhibit at the Tacoma Art Museum through November 28.

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