Acclaimed Kinsey Collection opens this weekend at Reginald Lewis Museum - baltimoresun.com: Over the past 181 years, the bill of sale has turned a pale tan. The ink has faded from black to brown and includes elaborate flourishes that seem ill-suited to such a grim and ugly business.
On Feb. 25, 1832, the bill reads, a slave named William Johnson "about eighteen years of age" was sold to the owner of an Alabama plantation for $550 — or roughly $14,000 in today's currency.
"This document changed my life," the Los Angeles-based philanthropist and collector Bernard Kinsey says about the piece of paper he received as a gift in the 1970s from a friend.
"When I opened that FedEx up, I felt like I was holding this young brother in my hands. I wanted to know everything about him. This was a human being, and anyone with a heart would feel for him."
That bill of sale sparked Bernard and Shirley Kinsey's lifelong mission to shine a spotlight on the courage of the hundreds of thousands of slaves who were brought to North America, and the resilience and creativity of their descendants. Over the past four decades, the Kinseys have amassed a collection of more than 400 artifacts and original artworks that span the 1600s to the present.