NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – “There were free people of color throughout the United States or throughout the colony. We think it’s a small part of the history that has not been told as it relates to African Americans and black people,” says museum owner Beverly McKenna.
That beautiful history dates back to the mid-1700’s. It’s a tribute to free people of color and on display at a place called LeMusee de f.p.c., on Esplanade Ave., on the northern end of Treme.
According to McKenna, “Many of them were very successful, they were hardworking, they were resourceful, some of them were educated. They were doctors, lawyers, publishers, but a lot of them were also the craftsman, cigar makers, so they covered the waterfront.”
The museum features a number of stunning paintings, historic documents and artifacts, including furniture produced by free men of color. It’s the result of 35 years of collecting by New Orleans Tribune publisher Beverly and her husband Dr. Dwight McKenna, and it’s a labor of love.
“We thought it was important that we own, buy, and share these relics, the artifacts, of our story and our culture.”
Amongst the many documents at LeMusee are purchase and freedom papers of various people. Also in the collection is a reminder that these people were also early civil rights activist. There’s a petition, signed by 1,000 local free men of color and delivered to President Lincoln requesting the right to vote, over 100 years before the Voting Rights Act.
McKenna says, “In this petition, and it’s so powerfully so beautifully worded, they say we pay taxes on $15,000,000 of property, we’ve fought in all your military battles, we are business people, we are educated. In other words, they had done everything they were asked to do, yet they were still second-class citizens.”
Le Musee de f.p.c. is located at 2336 Esplanade Ave. open Friday-Sunday and available for school tours through their website www.lemuseedefopc.com