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Groundbreaking for Delaney Museum at Beck
September 2, 2021

delaney museum at beck
Groundbreaking of Delaney Museum at Beck. Image courtesy of Beck Cultural Exchange Center

KNOXVILLE - The Beck Cultural Exchange Center hosted a groundbreaking ceremony Monday, August 30, 2021. This was the start of construction for the Delaney Museum at Beck, an international museum celebrating the history of the Delaney family.

delaney museum at beck
Groundbreaking attendees. Image courtesy of Beck Cultural Exchange Center

The groundbreaking event took place on a significant date: August 30th, 2021 marks 102 years since the Knoxville Race Riot of 1919, an event that shaped the lives and world views of brothers Beauford and Joseph. Two days of racial violence shook the city as a mob of 5,000 white men descended upon downtown Knoxville in hopes of lynching a Black man. When they could not find him, the mob instead turned their ire toward the Black community located at the intersection of Vine Avenue and Central Street.

“So why are we having the groundbreaking on this day? Because on that day, 102 years ago, we were fighting for our lives,” explained Rev. Reneé Kesler, president of the Beck Center. “On that day, armed white men plotted to attack the Black community, and Black men prepared to defend themselves. This would be a defining moment in Knoxville’s history, and it was particularly horrifying for Beauford. Today, 102 years later, we sit under a tent to celebrate the groundbreaking of an international museum with a Black, white and brown community together, commemorating a Black family of talented artists. I’m sorry if it’s a little warm, but it’s not as hot as it was 102 years ago.”

The construction of this museum doesn’t mean that racial inequality isn’t still an issue affecting the world today, but it’s a step in the right direction. “Beck is serious about preserving and conserving this rich and amazing history, and we are being intentional about bringing everybody along.”

delaney museum at beck
Delaney Museum at Beck rendering by Robin Easter Design

Beck is restoring the only remaining ancestral home of two of the greatest modern painters of the twentieth century: Beauford & Joseph Delaney.

The future Delaney Museum at Beck will preserve an extraordinary piece of Knoxville history.

Work is being performed by BarberMcMurry Architects, Kelly L. Headden, AIA East Tennessee Mechanical Contractors. The East Tennessee Community Design Center did the original work on the conceptual design.

You may donate to the Delaney Museum here.

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