Beck Preserves African American History and Links Us to Future
November 22, 2011 8:19 AM by Erin Donovan
Nestled past downtown Knoxville, the Beck Cultural Exchange Center is a must see educational experience for those looking to learn more about African American history and culture in East Tennessee and around the United States. The center focuses on researching, collecting, preserving and exhibiting achievements by using cultural exhibits and resource materials for visitors. From books to journals and audio recordings to scrapbooks, there is a type of information for every person. Before entering the center, groups may start at the Alex Haley statue, which is within walking distance to view this sculpted piece. This 13-foot bronze statue of the author sits in Haley Heritage Square and is surrounded by a park and playground for visitors to enjoy. After leaving Haley Heritage Square, visitors may walk to the Beck Cultural Exchange Center and begin their tour of this organization, founded in 1975, which still remains the largest African American membership organization in East Tennessee. From the start, this center provides a unique way for visitors to learn about African American history and culture by having guests participate in a treasure hunt. In the end, groups will have a chance to “visit themselves in the future” and staff helps visitors come up with a mental map of their possible future opportunities. The Beck Cultural Exchange Center provides a vast amount of resources for visitors including a collection on William Hastie, first black Governor of the Virgin Islands and first Black Federal Judge in the United States. Hastie was born in Knoxville, and this collection features personal and official memorabilia. Other exhibits include the Austin High School and Knoxville College collections that highlight the activities and leaders of the schools since their founding in the 1870’s. There is an extensive collection of newspapers, printed book and videos for visitors to browse that include topics such as African Americans in the military, religion, civil rights and sports. The Beck Cultural Center is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. More information can be found at www.beckcenter.net or by calling 865-524-8461.