Talladega College in Alabama commissioned prominent African American artist Hale Woodruff to paint a series of murals for its newly built Savery Library in 1938. Woodruff painted six murals portraying significant events in the journey of African Americans from slavery to freedom. On Nov. 7, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture will present “Rising Up: Hale Woodruff’s Murals at Talladega College,” an exhibition of murals and other significant works by the artist. The exhibition will be on view in the NMAAHC Gallery at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History through March 1, 2015.
This will be the first time the murals have been exhibited in the Washington metro area. 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.