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Gantt exhibition samples 400 years of black history

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  • Kinsey Collection

    Features 125 artifacts of African-American art and history. Opens Saturday at Gantt Center, 551 S. Tryon St.

    Details: 704-547-3700, www.ganttcenter.org.

    Bernard and Shirley Kinsey will host “An Afternoon of Art and Legacy” at the Gantt on Saturday. Tickets: www.ganttcenter.org.



Bernard Kinsey led a preview tour Thursday of his collection of African-American historical artifacts and art, calling the exhibition a series of “remarkable stories that nobody seems to remember.”

Opening Saturday at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts+Culture on South Tryon Street in Charlotte, this will be largest display of items from the Kinsey Collection, about 40 percent larger than the exhibition shown at the Smithsonian Institution in 2010.

In all, 125 objects will be on display in three galleries, including iron slave shackles made about 1850 for a woman, a 1907 poster detailing North Carolina’s segregation statutes regarding buses and warrants for two runaway slaves from Warren County.

Sponsored by Wells Fargo, the Kinsey Collection tour opened in San Francisco and will travel to Baltimore after closing in Charlotte in October.

Kinsey said the collection’s historical items related to slavery inspire a new vocabulary.

“When you see the word ‘plantation,’ strike it out. Say ‘prison’ instead. That’s what it was from a black perspective. Don’t say ‘mercantilism.’ It was kidnapping.”

An inventory of slaves written in 1820 in Grenada as part of the settlement of an estate lists names and identifying marks.

“Sarah, Creole, 40, right arm amputated,” reads one line. “Phyllis, Creole, 24, wants a toe on left foot,” says another.

Kinsey, who made his fortune as a business executive and in California real estate, was accompanied on the preview by his wife, Shirley, and son, Khalil, who came to Charlotte last week to oversee the installation of the exhibit.

“This is about being American,” Khalil Kinsey said. “Once we all know the narrative, we can look at each other differently.”

Among the artists whose work is on display is Charlotte native Romare Bearden.

David Taylor, president of the Gantt, said the collection illuminates some little-known facets of black culture through art and artifacts, “some painful, some beautiful.”

Washburn: 704-358-5007.
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