UCSC Night at the Museum to spotlight African American art and history

Free public event to feature legendary Kinsey Collection plus interview with author of 'The Defender: How the Legendary Black Newspaper Changed America'

UC Santa Cruz history professor David Anthony will interview special guest Ethan Michaeli, author of the The Defender: How the Legendary Black Newspaper Changed America.

The UC Santa Cruz Institute for Humanities Research will present UCSC Night at the Museum: The Kinsey African American Art & History Collection, a free public event at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, on Wednesday, May 18, beginning at 6 p.m.

The event offers the community a chance to explore one of the largest collections of African American art and artifacts in the country, spanning 400 years of history.

With education as a goal, The Kinsey Collection has been on a national tour since 2007, including stops at such venues as the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, The Norton Museum of Art, and The California African American Museum.

Reflecting a rich cultural heritage—and the often untold story of African American achievement and contribution—the Kinsey Collection includes work by Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Jacob Lawrence, and Richard Mayhew, alongside archival material related to Frederick Douglass, Zora Neale Hurston, and Malcolm X.

The evening will include a public conversation with special guest Ethan Michaeli, author of The Defender: How the Legendary Black Newspaper Changed America.

Just published in January, the book was praised by the New York Times as “an extraordinary history...deeply researched, elegantly written…and a towering achievement that will not be soon forgotten," while the Wall Street Journal noted “The Defender is essentially a record of the African-American struggle in our times.”

Michaeli will be interviewed by UC Santa Cruz associate professor of history, David Anthony, starting at 6:30 p.m.

“The Defender is a detailed, accessible, lively narrative that reconstructs the history of an iconic voice in the long saga of African-American journalism, demonstrating its world historical impact,” said Anthony.

“This multidimensional approach to the newspaper as local, national, and global is an important feature of Michaeli's text. It is simultaneously the story of a family enterprise, a Chicago institution, and a participant in the practice of social change in the broader struggle to realize democracy in the United States.”

Anthony added that he was intrigued by the manner in which the author captured the story of The Defender.

“There are both insider and outsider dimensions in this work,” Anthony noted. “Michaeli was himself part of the staff of the newspaper as a copy editor and investigative reporter who forged close connections with senior colleagues who were ‘keepers of the flame.’ Yet he is not African American, not unusual for The Defender or African American newspapers in general, but a subject worth exploring. I too devoted a considerable amount of time to researching African-American journalism and retain vivid recollections of its impact upon my own formation as a person of African descent.”

Anthony said that his conversation with the author will be followed by a public reception and book signing. He noted that the audience will have time to examine the Kinsey Collection both before and after the interview.

“The Kinsey Collection represents a rare glimpse into a long standing, albeit not always widely appreciated practice of painstaking preservation and presentation of key archival materials,” Anthony added, “carefully collected and curated by persons of African descent and others documenting the lived experiences of millions of people whose stories are far less well known than they should be.”

UCSC Night at the Museum: The Kinsey African American Art & History Collection, takes place on Wednesday, May 18, beginning at 6 p.m. at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History. Admission is free and open to the public. Click here to register for free admission. For more information, contact UCSC’s Institute for Humanities Research at ihr@ucsc.edu or (831) 459-5655.