Rethinking America’s Past

Voices from the Kinsey African American Art and History Collection

Edited by Tim Gruenewald

Rethinking America’s Past

Edited by Tim Gruenewald

Distributed for University of Cincinnati Press

288 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2019
Cloth $55.00 ISBN: 9781947602137 Published July 2019
While visitors to art and history museums may be there to simply enjoy the curated objects, the question of what is included (and excluded) in these collections and who has the power over this process echoes the struggle for inclusion that is so central to the African American experience. Since its inception, the Kinsey African American Art and History Collection® has played an important role in this struggle, seeking out objects that give voice to previously excluded experiences, and providing an alternative to the limits of institutional collections.
 
Among the first scholarly books dedicated to a private African American collection, Rethinking America’s Past: Voices from the Kinsey African American Art and History Collection both chronicles the reach of this important cultural collection and contributes to its project by sharing selected objects and stories with a broader audience. Essays range in subject from iconic African American artists, such as Loïs Mailou Jones and Beauford Delaney, to important historical figures such as Frederick Douglas and Martin Luther King, to individuals whose experiences might be lost to history but for the found objects that preserve their stories. Rethinking America’s Past demonstrates how the African American story, from slavery through the present, is represented and can be actively remembered through the act of collecting.
 
Rethinking America’s Past will appeal to audiences interested in African American history as well as art history, but its real power is in linking the two, showing how important collections are in constructing and repairing historical narratives, and how in the words of editor Tim Gruenewald, “Collecting overlooked aspects of our past and sharing such collections enables a deeper understanding of the present moment, and facilitates a more inclusive and just future.”
 
Contents
Foreword: Understanding the Past and Collecting
Introduction: Collecting/Collective Identity: Collections and Remembering African American Art and History
Ch. 1 “No Man Can Be Prevented From Visiting His Wife”: Henry Butler and Enslaved Manliness in Family and Intimacy
Ch. 2 Revising Escape: Frederick Douglass’s Civic Promise of Free Trade and Amitav Ghosh’s Global Geography of Commercial Imperialism
Ch. 3 “Damn that Jim Crow”: Blues Songs Travel the American Apartheid Road
Ch. 4 Alain Locke’s New Negro: Of Words and Images
Ch. 5 Ebb and Flow: Loïs Mailou Jones and the Shape of Water
Ch. 6 Quantum Aesthetics: The Color of Light in Beauford Delaney’s Untitled
Ch. 7 Beyond Civil Rights: Remembering and Continuing the Black Freedom Movement in the United States  
 
Review Quotes
Douglas A. Blackmon, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Slavery by Another Name
“Bernard and Shirley Kinsey’s quest to find and save artifacts from centuries of black achievement and resilience should be an inspiration to us all. Rethinking America’s Past highlights and advances the voices of the Kinseys and their inspiring collection, remembering all that has gone wrong in society and how powerfully people of strength, decency and goodwill can prevail."
Jacqueline K. Dace, Deputy Directorm National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
“The Kinsey collection is proof that African American history is documented through multiple mediums. We must recognize the significance and reality that African American history is American history. Direct engagement with this collection in Rethinking America’s Past changes the narrative and no longer allows these contribution to be hidden.”
James Smethurst, W.E.B. DuBois Department of Afri-American Studies, University of Massachusetts-Amherst; author of The African American Roots of Modernism
“A valuable book that reminds us that ‘the archive’ of African American history and art can be credited significantly to black collectors who believed in saving, assembling, and framing the archive in a truthful way. Rethinking America’s Past investigates the responsibility that African American artists felt in representing and interpreting black history and experience, in times when the ‘mainstream’ history profession generally fell far short.”
Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles
Rethinking America’s Past beckons us to reconsider not only the facts of American history, but what it means to build a future of freedom and belonging. The Kinseys’ remarkable collection opens our eyes to a more complex, vibrant, and beautiful portrait of African-American life – and compels us to see ourselves in the stories of the artwork and artifacts.”
Kathryn Barrett-Gaines, African and African American History, University of Maryland Eastern Shore
“[Rethinking America’s Past] is a truly enjoyable read and a tremendous intervention in African American Studies scholarship. Picture students and general readers alike exploring these artifacts and documents, seeing people like themselves and their families in a history book. I am always grateful to historians who increase access to important materials.”
For more information, or to order this book, please visit https://www.press.uchicago.edu
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