Harmon and Harriet Kelley collect artwork done by African-American artists.

Artwork that, until recently, was largely ignored by museums and art collectors.

The collection lines their home walls -- still-lifes next to portraits next to landscapes.

“Every time you go through, it's always kind of fun to talk about them again," said Harmon Kelley.

Though Kelley says he is proud of his collection, he admits is often a walk down a painful memory lane.

"Charles Ethan Porter did these beautiful still-lifes, and near the end of his life, he would go door-to-door trying to get food for these pieces," said Harriet Kelley.

The Kelleys say they carry the stories of the artists -- along with the art.

They bought their first painting in the mid 1980s after they discovered how rare these pieces were in museums, and their mission began.

"The more we read and found out how much we didn't know, we became more and more interested and wanted to educate our daughters about this part of their heritage," said Harriet Kelley.

For the Kelleys, it is an investment in much more than money. They started their collection before the internet and would pour through magazines and archives, looking for exactly what they wanted.

"So many African-American artists were neglected by the galleries and by the museums, as well as collectors for many years, and they've been an important part of changing that," said Dr. Bill Chiego, of the McNay Art Museum.

Today and 300 pieces later, the Kelleys' collection has been at places like the McNay Art Museum, the Smithsonian and the National Museum of Art.

"They've been ... very important in really expanding our view," says Chiego.

"I think what we have done has helped not only educate our race, but others as well," said Harriet Kelley.

The Kelleys said their goal is to bring attention to artists who certainly deserve it.

What started as a mission, they say, is now their legacy.

"I hope this is something that will live on far after we're gone," said Harriet Kelley.

"That's what the black artists wanted -- to be accepted," said Harmon Kelley.

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