Robert S. Duncanson

“Landscape, Autumn, 1865” a small, pastoral painting in the midst of all the elements of the Kinsey Collection could easily be overlooked. But this painting by an artist who made Cincinnati his home for 30 years is a powerful statement about the determination of a free man of color, the grandson of a slave, to contribute to the conversation about the identity of America in the turbulent period of the 1840s, 50s and 60s.

The Fate of Frances

As I continue making my way through the Kinsey African American Art & History Collection while it’s here through March 4, I come across a letter written in1854. Reading through it I’m extremely appalled and disheartened by its content. The letter details a slave master by the name of AMF Crawford selling off a seventeen year-old girl named Frances he owns to pay for a stable of horses. What’s bad (as this alone is already awful of him taking part in the institution of slavery), he’s taking her away from her family.

A Fresh Perspective

As the visitor walks through the Kinsey African American Art & History Collection they are exposed to the legacy of the Americas. The visitor encounters materials documenting the age of enslavement and paintings by contemporary African American artists. When one typically learns about the history of colonial America and the United States in school, there is a typical cast of characters. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Betsy Ross come to mind.

This Small Book

The Negro Motorist Green Book, published from 1936 to 1966 by New York City mailman, Victor Hugo Green, was used by African American travelers to traverse a hostile American landscape when trying to get from place to place. When the Green Book arrived at our museum, it needed to be encapsulated for display. I had the opportunity to page through the book before preparing it for the exhibition.

Quiet Strength

The Kinsey African American Art & History Collection is incredibly powerful and it has been an honor to promote the exhibition with the NURFC team these past few months. The breadth and depth of content, historical and personal, highlights the untold stories of so many Americans – from photographic, literary and artistic perspectives. I believe it would be nearly impossible to walk through a personal collection of this caliber and not have one, or more, objects speak to you.

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