TESTIFY: Americana from Slavery to Today exhibit at Morris Public Library

The Morris Public Library is hosting a photo gallery exhibit through April 15 during open hours. The exhibit, called Testify: Americana from Slavery to Today, features images of art and artifacts from the Diane and Alan Page Collection. 

Alan Page is a retired Minnesota state Supreme Court Judge and a former professional football player. He played for the Minnesota Vikings, and later the Chicago Bears. While still playing for the Vikings, Page attended the University of Minnesota Law School. Page served as Special Assistant Attorney General, and Assistant Attorney General, before becoming the first African-American elected to the Minnesota State Supreme Court. In 1998, he was re-elected to the court and became the biggest vote-getter in Minnesota history. He was re-elected again in 2004, and for a final time in 2010, retiring when he reached the court’s mandatory retirement age of 70 in 2015. Page was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2018 by President Donald Trump.

The exhibit features images from the Diane and Alan Page Collection. The Pages collected pieces for the collection for decades, including an iron collar and a branding iron used on slaves. Some items collected are inspiring, such as a painting of a jazz trio and a poster of Black runners competing in the 1972 Olympics. The exhibit originally was displayed in 2018 and was recently resurrected in 2023. 

Local libraries across the state have worked with Page, and his daughter, Georgi Page-Smith, to bring a smaller traveling version of the TESTIFY Exhibit to make it more accessible, with funding from Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fun.

The Morris Public Library is currently in possession of the traveling exhibit, which opened on March 15 and will be available to view until April 15. The traveling exhibit features photographs and information about the artifacts from the Diane and Alan Page Collection. 

The library offers the opportunity for visitors to share their thoughts in a journal located at the door to the exhibit room. Some remarks that have been left so far read: “Should be seen by all to learn how to do better and be better. Thank you to the Pages for gathering this archive and making this a possibility,” and, “Very moving.” Other commenters gave their thanks for bringing this exhibit to Morris.

“The objects in the collection are facts,” said Page-Smith. “And while they are facts that might make people uncomfortable, that discomfort is not the end goal of the exhibit; we need to become conscious of ‘unconscious bias,’ and we need to learn to recognize racism. Similar to a disease, we can then focus on curing it, healing what’s broken, and doing the growth we need to do as a country.” 

The Morris Public Library is located at 102 E. 6th St. in Morris.