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Detroiter's family heirloom showcased in national African-American museum

Sep 23, 2016

Shirley Burke with Rex Ellis, associate director for curatorial affairs at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Credit Courtesy of Shirley Burke

The National Museum of African American History and Culture opens this weekend in Washington. One of the items on display is a violin that, until now, was in Michigan with Shirley Burke.

Burke donated the violin to the new museum after inheriting it from family members. She said the 150-year-old violin originally belonged to Elisha Burke, her great-grandfather’s slave holder in Arkansas. Jesse Burke, her great-grandfather, began playing the instrument while a slave and continued playing it later, when free.  

After owning the violin for 35 years, Shirley Burke said she was ready to pass it on.

“It was time to make it visible for other people to see and enjoy,” she said.

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