Posts Tagged ‘Afro-American’

Afro-American Heritage Museum

February 2, 2011

Time was when there were several ethnic communities in Tucson, each with their own cultural heritage of foods, arts, and religions. While there was much of historic value in these neighborhoods, they were formed from the prejudice which forced them to live in segregated areas. Tucson’s cultural environment of prejudice supported the establishment of black communities along Meyer Street, South Park Avenue and “A” Mountain. Tucson possesses a long, rich black history, which Charles Kendrick and cofounder Standman Blair have gathered  in the form of photographs and artifacts in their Afro-American Museum which also serves soul food. Kendrick and Blair formed this museum. Kendrick, after forty-two years as a Tucson pharmacist founded Mr. K’s Barbecue. He was the first Tucson black to graduate from the University of Arizona college of pharmacy in 1955.

            Pioneer blacks, who settled in Tucson as homesteaders, buffalo soldiers, cowboys, educators and medical professionals, worked to bring an end to prejudice. Their contributions have been documented by the Arizona Historical Society, the African-American Historical and Genealogical Society – Tucson Chapter and the University of Arizona. These pioneers included Sergeant Frank Reed, a Buffalo soldier; Dr. Floyd Thompson, dentist and first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Dental Corps. Blanche Johnson; beauty shop owner; and pilot Roy Comeaux. Janet Harmon Bragg, who braved racism and sexism to become one of the first Black women to earn a full commercial pilot’s license, lived in Tucson in the 1960s.

            The Paul Lawrence Dunbar School where many black children received their early education resulted from the segregationist barrier which was broken down because of the efforts of the NAACP in Tucson.

            A great place to learn about Tucson’s black history is Mr. K’s Barbecue and Afro-American Heritage Museum on South Park Avenue. The building was once a grocery store and one of several Black owned businesses along South Park in the 1960’s. Today, it draws a culturally diverse clientele from all over Tucson. Kendrick and Blair collected black memorabilia over the years including photos, Buffalo Soldier artifacts, old-time general mercantile and pharmacy items, early school items, a slave whip, books, black postcards, black face minstrel art and more. Black face minstrel art was an important tradition in the American theater for about one hundred years starting around 1830. It became popular in Europe, where the tradition could be seen on prime time television as late as 1981. White blackface performers used burnt cork and greasepaint or shoe polish to blacken their skin and exaggerate their lips. They wore woolly wigs, gloves, tailcoats, or ragged clothes to complete the transformation. The unique postcard collection is both humorous and sad, reflecting life under the bondage of segregation. The museum has a small but important book collection, many of which are out of print, documents Black heroes. Their education collection has been gathered into a schoolroom setting.

            Perhaps the most striking artifact is the slave whip which Kendrick obtained in Texas along with a picture of a man who felt the sting of the cruel whip on his scarred back. The main method used to control the slaves’ behavior was the threat of having them whipped. The number of lashes depended on the seriousness of the offence. Austin Steward wrote that on his plantation thirty-nine was the number for most offences. Francis Fredric ran away and after he was captured he was given 107 lashes.

            Don’t miss Mr. K’s barbecue business which supports the museum. For those who love barbecue and who doesn’t?  Mr. K’s ranks at the top with homemade soul food specialties.

Afro-American Heritage Museum Mr. K’s Barbecue 1830 S Park Ave Tucson, AZ 85713 Tel: 520-792-9484