San Antonio family's 1932 Ford will be displayed at National Museum of American History

The vehicle will be the first previously owned by a Black family to call the museum home.

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click to enlarge Members of the McKinney family show off the 1932 Ford Model B heading to the Smithsonian. - Photo by Al Rendon, courtesy of the National Museum of American History
Photo by Al Rendon, courtesy of the National Museum of American History
Members of the McKinney family show off the 1932 Ford Model B heading to the Smithsonian.
A San Antonio family's 1932 Ford Model B is heading for the Smithsonian as part of the National Museum of American History's transportation collection.

The family heirloom, donated on Thursday, will be the first car previously owned by a Black family to call the museum home.

"There is so much pride wrapped up in this Ford Model B — it is a physical manifestation of the human ability to overcome extreme adversity," said Courtney McKinney, whose family made the donation.

McKinney's great-grandfather, family patriarch Delbert McKinney, purchased the car using wages from his job as a Pullman Porter on the Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad line.

"The car was one of few owned by a Black family during the Great Depression and illuminates automobile history at a time when travel was segregated and even dangerous for Black Americans," said Kathleen Franz, chairwoman of the museum's Work and Industry Division.

click to enlarge Delbert and Dottie McKinney owned the car and used it to travel to labor conventions. - Courtesy of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History
Courtesy of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History
Delbert and Dottie McKinney owned the car and used it to travel to labor conventions.
Known for their activism, Delbert McKinney and his wife, Dottie McKinney, not only used the car for leisure but also to make history, traveling to labor conventions and community meetings in the Ford.

Delbert McKinney also worked to enact anti-discrimination practices after he was elected to attend the Texas Federation of Labor Conference. He was one of only 19 black delegates chosen for the gathering.

After the deaths of Delbert and Dottie McKinney, the car was passed down to their youngest son Alonso. An Air Force Veteran and skilled mechanic, he maintained the vehicle until his death in 2007.

Pamela McKinney told KSAT that the car's donation to the museum is a bittersweet moment, but she feels at ease knowing it's going to a "secure place."

After the interior is restored, the car will be put on display along with stories of the car and the family that used it as a vessel for change.

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