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A home decorated with African history

Frances Watkins' Kings Park home is decorated with

Frances Watkins' Kings Park home is decorated with artifacts that celebrate the black experience. (Feb. 15, 2013) Credit: Ed Betz

Kings Park resident Frances Watkins created her own historic home, building a collection of artifacts that celebrates the black experience.

Now Watkins uses her house as a museum of sorts to educate visitors about the past. Dubbed "Granny Frannie" by some of the local children who visit, the former civil rights activist says she believes in an anything-can-be-handled policy: "Nothing in this house is sacred," she says.

Her travels include visiting Africa four times. With each trip, she purchased artwork, carvings and pictures, many of them family themed.

"Everything is family in the African culture," she says. "Always the unit -- the family, the mother, father and child."

Watkins embraces the philosophy: In her Kwanzaa room, a dining room devoted to the winter celebration, her ancestors sit in a prominent position on the sideboard. "You give honor to the dead whose shoulders you stood on," she explains. "Then you pledge to provide shoulders and help for someone else to stand on." This is also seen on her staircase, where a pathway of statues, one sitting on every step, leads to the second landing.

Her collection includes dozens of dolls, such as one of Hattie McDaniel in "Gone With the Wind" -- the actress was the first African-American to win an Oscar. She also collects items from popular culture, such as a series of posters Budweiser made of Egyptian Kings in the '80s and cards McDonald's once issued to commemorate Black History Month.

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