Museums to host African American Heritage Series

In honor of Black History month, the Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery will present programming for the February event series, “Exploring History and Culture in Central Minnesota.”

The series, a partnership project of the Benton, Sherburne, Stearns and Morrison County historical societies, brings programming from highly acclaimed Minnesota museums to central Minnesota. The project seeks to foster greater understanding and awareness of cultures that have been and continue to be part of Minnesota and its history, a news release stated.

This year’s event series will take place via Zoom on the first three Saturdays in February. Each Saturday will feature a special presentation from the Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery covering a different aspect of the state’s African American heritage. The museum, a private nonprofit founded in 2018, works to preserve, record and highlight the achievements, contributions and experiences of African Americans in Minnesota.

The event will include a question and answer session.

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The first program in the series, “A Conversation with the Cofounders of the Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery,” will be 11 a.m. to noon Feb. 6. The program will feature museum cofounders, Tina Burnside and Coventry Cowens, discussing how the museum was founded, its mission, exhibitions and programs. The discussion will talk about the role the museum plays in being the only African American history museum in Minnesota.

“The Role of the Arts and Artists in Social Justice Movements” will take place from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Feb. 13. This program will feature a combination of videos and panel discussion. Participants will view two videos created by the state museum – the making of the Black Lives Matter mural and Un-Heard, followed by a panel discussion with artists, Melodee Strong and Joe Davis. The panel discussion will be moderated by Georgia Fort and will include the Black Lives Matter mural in Minneapolis, public art and the role that artists have played in the fight for racial justice in the Twin Cities, particularly after the killing of George Floyd. The panel will discuss how art can bring about social change and spur people to action.

The final program in the series, “Save the Boards to Memorialize the Movement,” will be 11 a.m. to noon Feb. 20. The program will consist of a conversation with Leesa Kelly and Kenda Zellner-Smith who joined their organizations and are collaborating with the state museum to collect, preserve and archive the plywood art murals that were created after the killing of George Floyd. Kelly and Zellner-Smith have collected more than 500 boards from Twin Cities businesses. An outdoor exhibition of the plywood board murals is being planned for May 2021. Hear about what motivated them to start this project, how they joined forces and why preserving these artworks is important to the Black community.

The event series is free and open to the public. Registration is required for one or more of the programs by visiting

For more information contact the Morrison County Historical Society at 320-632-4007. The February 2021 event series is sponsored by Sourcewell and Rethos: Places Reimagined.