Houston Forward Times

16 July 2014 Written by  Forward Times Staff

Wells Fargo Brings African American Treasures from The Kinsey Collection to The Houston Museum of African American Culture

As the nation observes the fiftieth anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act, Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC) and the Houston Museum of African American Culture readies the opening of, African American Treasures from The Kinsey Collection, on August 2, 2014.

The Kinsey Collection is a nationally acclaimed exhibition seen by over three million people and includes artifacts and works of art demonstrating the artistic, historic, and cultural contributions and progress of African Americans. The exhibition features documents, artifacts, and photographs dating from the 1500s to the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Jim Crow years, and the Civil Rights Movement.

The exhibition at the Houston Museum of African American Culture, on display through October 26 2014, includes seldom displayed artifacts, including:

  • an early edition of Solomon Northrup’s 12 Years a Slave, the basis of the Academy Award-winning film;
  • W.E.B Dubois 1st edition copy of his ground breaking book Souls of Black Folks;
  • a baptismal record dating back to 1595, and marital record from 1598 – the earliest known documentation of African-American presence in America.

Works from Houston’s own, John Biggers and Lionel Lofton, are also featured.

Through these objects, The Kinsey Collection seeks to dispel myths and promote dialogue about the role of African Americans in the making of America. Wells Fargo and the Houston Museum of African American Culture invite visitors to contemplate the items displayed and to reflect on the progress that African Americans have made in civil rights and social justice, as well as consider the work remaining to achieve equality.

The role of African Americans in the art and culture of early America was far richer than commonly thought – a contribution that has endured and flourished. At the same time, the end of slavery with the Civil War did not end the exploitation, violence, and neglect of the previously enslaved and their descendants. Only through strength and commitment to social justice did African Americans secure their civil and human rights as a result of the Civil Rights Movement and passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

Bernard Kinsey, avid collector, philanthropist, and educator, began this collection over 35 years ago with his wife, Shirley, and son, Khalil. Bernard was inspired to begin his collection after viewing an original bill of sale of William Johnson sold for $550 in 1832.

"You cannot begin to understand The Civil War, without first understanding slavery. You cannot fully appreciate the Civil Rights Movement without understanding Jim Crow. " says Bernard Kinsey. "The Kinsey Collection serves to facilitate the joining of these historical moments to create a more comprehensive view of the historical account of America."

The exhibition’s combination of original documents, rare books, paintings and other works of art, early photographs and modern sculptures creates a unique and diverse experience, bringing history to life through art and artifacts. As visitors walk through the exhibition, they are fully immersed in a story of struggle for freedom, equality, and expression in American history – leaving the experience both educated and inspired.

"By presenting this exhibition, lectures, programs, and the community events that highlight the stories in the exhibition, Wells Fargo and the Houston Museum of African American Culture hope to establish that we are all connected by a common history and that our shared history cannot be segregated," says John Guess, Jr., CEO of the Houston Museum of African American Culture. "Houston residents and visitors can realize that the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement – no matter their race or background – are inextricably linked and central to the lives of all people in the history of our nation."

The Kinsey Collection has been seen at the Smithsonian Institution and 14 other venues, but never before in Houston. As part of Wells Fargo’s 2013 celebratory tour honoring the 150th anniversary of The Emancipation Proclamation, it traveled to leading African American museums including the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) in San Francisco, the Harvey B. Gantt Center in Charlotte, and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore. Wells Fargo and the Kinsey family have extended the tour through 2014, moving it first to the Atlanta History Center before coming to Houston.

"The appreciation of culture, diversity, and human rights is at the heart of our vision and values," says Cary Yates, market growth and development manager, Wells Fargo in Houston "Extending this national tour provides Wells Fargo with the opportunity to encourage conversations about the value of diversity and inclusion while allowing us to recommit to the fundamental principles of equality that inspire and drive us all."

Wells Fargo also launched the Untold Stories: Our Inspired History campaign. The campaign features a three-part short film series narrated by celebrity influencers, Jordin Sparks, Lauren London, and Lance Gross, taking viewers through specific points in history highlighting artifacts from The Kinsey Collection. The campaign also extends into the social media space with multiple video vignettes featuring prominent lifestyle bloggers sharing their personal stories. For more information or details on the Untold Stories: Our Inspired History campaign, please visit www.wellsfargo.com/kinseycollection.