Legacy Earns VFH Grant for Business Exhibit

The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities has made a $10,000 grant to the Legacy Museum to support the upcoming exhibit on Black Businesses in Central Virginia, 1820-1970.

The exhibit will open to the public on Sunday, June 27, 2004.

Most of the grant money will pay for the services and travel expenses of the five humanities professionals who will shape the exhibit, tentatively titled “Mindin’ Our Own Business.”

Guest curator Dianne Swann-Wright, director of African American and special programs at Monticello, began work on the business exhibit in August of 2003. She has written a prospectus and has met several times with Legacy’s collection committee to guide the process of gathering artifacts.

The humanities professionals who will consult with Swann-Wright as she develops exhibit text are Charles Bethea, director of the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia in Richmond; Ted Delaney, archivist and curator at Lynchburg’s Old City Cemetery; Debra Newman Ham, professor of history at Morgan State University in Baltimore; and Gregg D. Kimball, director of publications at the Library of Virginia in Richmond.

Other professionals to be fully or partially supported with VFH grant funds are brochure designer Judith Thomas and design and installation specialist Betsy Johnson-Whitten. Thomas, Johnson-Whitten, and Delaney are veterans of previous Legacy exhibits. Swann-Wright’s curatorship is her second for the Museum, while Bethea, Ham, and Kimball are new to Legacy’s exhibit-making process.

In addition to support for professional services, VFH grant funds will also pay some of the postage and printing expenses related to the exhibit. In all, VFH support represents about 40% of the projected cost of mounting “Mindin’ Our Own Business.” The rest of the funding comes from Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money awarded to the Museum by the City of Lynchburg. In addition, many volunteers donate their time and travel expenses to match VFH grant funds.

The exhibit on Black Businesses will explore the written laws and local practices that impeded African Americans’ efforts to establish and run their own businesses, the stable market created by segregation, and the changes in black businesses brought about by the end of segregation.

Topics included in the exhibit are the market forces that drove black businesses, the role of women in the black business world, the differences between rural and urban business enterprises, and the concentration of Central Virginia’s black business establishments in such areas as agriculture, entertainment, funerals, food service, and hair care. Slavery will also be viewed as a business.

The mission of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, established thirty years ago, is “to develop the civic, cultural, and educational life of the Commonwealth by creating learning opportunities for all Virginians.” VFH funds come from a variety of sources, including the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and donations from private foundations, businesses, and individual.

The grant for “Mindin’ Our Own Business” is Legacy’s fourth from the VFH since 2001. The Museum opened in 2000.

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