This article is posted in honor of Black History Month:


Portrait-by-Artis-Lane_medium Throughout their over 40-year marriage, collectors Bernard and Shirley Kinsey have celebrated their heritage by seeking unusual souvenirs. From an early version of the Emancipation Proclamation to correspondence between Malcolm X and Alex Haley, the couple has amassed a trove of rare artifacts and artwork that spans four centuries and embodies the hardships and triumphs of the African American experience. Originally housed in a wine cellar in the Kinseys' Los Angeles home, items from their private collection form The Kinsey Collection — a new exhibition organized by the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Drinkingfountainsign_medium During the period of legal segregation (roughly the mid-1890s to the 1960s) signs like this were common in public spaces throughout the South. The signs were meant to demean compliant black citizens and to threaten the rebellious. Inferior facilities for African Americans, such as restrooms and restaurants, were a daily humiliation and a constant reminder of inequality.

Fate-In-Her-Hands_web2_medium A Slave Carrying Her Fate in Her Hands, 1854
A.M.F. Crawford
Ink on paper, 19 ¾ X 12 ½ inches

When 17-year-old Frances carried this letter from her owner, she was unaware that it describes her valuable skills — “she is the finest chamber-maid [sic] I have ever seen in my life” — and offers her for sale. Although Crawford's letter acknowledges the inevitable heart-wrenching separation of Frances from her family, the slaveholder's only concern is for a profitable sale, without a “distressing leave-taking.” As indicated, the proceeds will pay for a new stable.

More here. (Note: Do take a moment to read this chilling letter by clicking on it. Maybe I am so upset because I have a 17 year old daughter…)