Rising Up: Hale Woodruff's Murals from Talladega College
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. Installed in the institution's newly constructed Savery Library, 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.
They attracted national attention. Today the murals remain symbols of the centuries-long struggle for civil rights. This project, a collaboration between the High Museum of Art and Talladega College, conserves these works and presents them to a national audience for the first time.
Organization & Support
Rising Up: Hale Woodruff's Murals from Talladega College is organized by the High Museum of Art, in collaboration with Talladega College. This exhibition is made possible with generous support from American Express, Georgia-Pacific, the Henry Luce Foundation, the Terra Foundation for American Art, and the Friends of Hale Woodruff.
The conservation of the murals is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts and Mr. and Mrs. Jesse C. Crawford.
Hale Woodruff (1900–1980)
Hale Woodruff in his studio, ca. 1939, with preparatory
sketches for the Talladega murals behind him.
Hale Aspacio Woodruff was born in Cairo, Illinois, and raised in Tennessee. In 1927, after formal art study in the United States, Woodruff moved to Paris. There he trained at the city's progressive art academies, admired Old Master paintings, and studied the work of the avant-garde, and met with African American expatriates, including Henry Ossawa Tanner. He began collecting African art and, after seeing works by Picasso and other modernists, started to incorporate African imagery into his paintings.
In addition to his distinguished career as a painter, Woodruff was also known for his contributions as an educator. In 1931 he returned from France to establish the first art school for African Americans in the Southeast at Atlanta University. He taught students at AU, Spelman College, and Clark University as well as high school and grade school children around Atlanta. In 1938 he also began teaching classes in art regularly at Talladega College.
In 1946 he became a teacher at New York University, where he taught art for more than twenty years until his retirement in 1968. During the mid-1960s Woodruff and fellow artist Romare Bearden were instrumental in starting the Spiral Group, a collaboration of African American artists working in New York.