Part of the exhibit. Courtesy of the Rev. Tyler Millner.
Part of the exhibit. Courtesy of the Rev. Tyler Millner.

For the next month, Martinsville will host an exhibit organizers hope will bridge the gap between residents and the past by way of a legendary civil rights icon.  

Beginning Sunday and running through Feb. 15, the Rev. Tyler C. Millner will make his collection, detailing the life and legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., available for public viewing at Millner’s Martinsville church, Morning Star Holy Church. 

“We’ve never done anything like this exhibit,” Millner said, adding that the exhibit could become annual. 

The exhibit comes directly from Millner’s personal collection, the culmination of decades of curation. Everything from assorted trinkets, newspaper clippings, pictures, writings and other original documents make up the collection, and after decades, Millner said he is ready to share it.   

“I’ve been collecting forever,” Millner said before later adding, “Anywhere and anytime I could get my hands on a piece of something, I tried to get it.” 

Talking about some of the more unique pieces in his collection, Millner describes a chip off of the King statue in Washington and unpublished writing, among other things.

“I have an extensive library that I will have on display as well,” Millner said.     

Millner said in the decades since his death, both King’s image and values have become susceptible to misinterpretation. He said it’s important his exhibit puts forth an accurate representation of King.

“It’s not just a matter of posters in February,” Millner said, before adding, “This is why the exhibit is relevant.” 

Millner said it’s important to pass on this knowledge to impact future generations like he was as a young man. 

“I saw him twice…as a student,” Millner said. “He came in when I was a student.” 

Millner hopes the exhibit will similarly impact other students, while maintaining the exhibit isn’t solely for young people. Ultimately he wants the exhibit to serve as a sort of jumping off point into the wider world of Black history. 

“I want to promote the idea that there is much more to Black history,” Millner said. “We developed a whole way of life…we had funeral homes, churches, schools, barbers and with no support. I want us to appreciate the community achievements of African Americans.”

Millner is confident the Martinsville community will embrace his project.

“I think the time is right,” Millner said. “I really hope people will appreciate what we’re doing.”

Morning Star Holy Church is located at 2839 Stoney Mountain Rd. in Martinsville. The exhibit opens at noon.

Dean-Paul Stephens

Dean-Paul Stephens is a reporter for Cardinal News. He is based in Martinsville. Reach him at dean@cardinalnews.org.