Rising Up: Hale Woodruff's Murals at Talladega College

November 7, 2014 – March 1, 2015
Hale Woodruff, “The Mutiny on the Amistad” (1939), oil on canvas, collection of Savery Library, Talladega College, Talladega, Alabama

National Museum of American History
14th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC

2nd Floor, East Wing, African American History and Culture Gallery Floor Plan

In 1938, Atlanta-based artist Hale Woodruff was commissioned to paint a series of murals for Talladega College, Alabama, one of the first colleges established for blacks in the United States. The six murals portray noteworthy events in the rise of blacks from slavery to freedom. Though he painted the murals for a local audience of students and faculty, Woodruff intended their impact to reach beyond Talladega’s campus.

The murals were removed from Talladega College for a five-year collaborative restoration project organized by the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, which also organized a multicity tour of the works. The murals are six monumental canvases arranged in two cycles of three, portraying heroic efforts of resistance to slavery and moments in the history of Talladega College, which opened in 1867 to serve the educational needs of a new population of freed slaves. The first cycle includes the murals “The Mutiny on the Amistad,” which depicts the uprising on the slave ship La Amistad; “The Trial of the Amistad Captives,” depicting the court proceedings that followed the mutiny; and “The Repatriation of the Freed Captives,” portraying the subsequent freedom and return to Africa of the Amistad captives.

The companion murals “The Underground Railroad,” “The Building of Savery Library” and “Opening Day at Talladega College” show themes of the Underground Railroad, the construction of Savery Library at Talladega College and the early days of the college campus, for which the murals were commissioned, respectively.

Rising Up: Hale Woodruff’s Murals at Talladega College is presented by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and is organized by the High Museum of Art in collaboration with Talladega College. The exhibition is co-curated by Jacquelyn Serwer, chief curator at NMAAHC, and Rhea Combs, museum curator.

A full-color, 155-page catalog, published by the High Museum of Art, will be on sale in the National Museum of American History’s store during the exhibition.