African-American Collection Heads to Smithsonian

Bernard and Shirley Kinsey
Bernard and Shirley Kinsey, whose collection of art and artifacts is now in the Smithsonian Museum of American History.
CBS

Bernard Kinsey is a collector - and a storyteller. Get him started and he can't stop.

His converted wine cellar is filled with fine, vintage African Americana, reports CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker.

"This stuff is not only valuable, it's really rare," Kinsey said.

It's a passion he shares with Shirley, his wife of 43 years.

"I buy the dead artists, she buys the living artists," Bernard Kinsey said.

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The retired Xerox executives collected for four decades, until their L.A. house was bursting.

"I got so much stuff, I can't even keep up with all of it," Bernard Kinsey said.

But they didn't truly know what they had until they let it go. First it traveled to the African American Museum in L.A.

"It's a very special collection about who we are and where we come from," said Charmaine Jefferson, the executive director of the museum.

Then the collection went to Chicago, Cincinnati, Palm Beach and Tallahassee. More than 200,000 people have seen their collection of artifacts and works by celebrated artists like Romare Beardon and Jacob Lawrence.

"I think it's wonderful," said Jon Moyle in Tallahassee. "It will bring tears to your eyes."

It is not bad for a couple of kids from Florida who met in college in 1963 in the heat of the Civil Rights Movement. They built a good life, and piece by piece this remarkable collection.

"I grew up with my grandmother," said Shirley Kinsey. "Mama would not like this if I didn't share this with others."

Now they're sharing with the country. Their collection just opened at the Smithsonian Museum of American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., the first private collection at the new African-American gallery.

"What we're trying to do simply is give our ancestors a voice, a personality, a name," Bernard said.

Adding their stories to America's story.