Museum Director and Author Has Local Ties

The Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History came to Coushatta this past weekend.  Kevin Young came to celebrate his grandmother’s 99th birthday. 

Prior to that position, Young spent 20 years at the Schomburg Center in Harlem.  The center is part of the 100 year old New York Public Library system.  He said they have the oldest and largest collection of African American artifacts.

Young, who has spent much of his life working to preserve the history of African Americans in this country, is also a prolific writer.  His latest work is a children’s book.

Young said Emile and the Field is his latest.  “It is a children’s book that I named for my great grandfather on his father’s side,” said Young.  In the book, Emile falls in love with a field.  Not to give away the plot, Young said, “It is a story in which Emile learns to share.”

His bookshelf contains a recent book of poems Stones about Louisiana gravestones.  Some of those stones can be found in the Springville Cemetery.

For the past year and a half, Young has been director of the Museum of African American History in Washington, DC.  You may recall a TV network special on the construction.  Young said a couple of items had to be lowered into place by large cranes prior to finishing the building.  “There is a railroad car, a segregated car.  Also, there is a guard tower from Angola State Prison,” and Young added, “The museum has 400,000 square feet of display space with 40,000 objects in inventory.  At any one time about 3,000 of them are on view.”

The Journal inquired about some of the more significant items in the collection.  Young said, “We have Harriet Tubman’s hymnal and handkerchief.  There is Nat Turner’s Bible, Brenna Taylor’s portrait by Amy Sherril and the original casket of Emmitt Till from his wake in Chicago.”

Young said he comes to Coushatta for a visit as often as he can.  He attended his grandmother’s 95th birthday celebration several years ago.  And he plans to come back for birthday number 100 next year.


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