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Hale Woodruff Murals from Talladega College Featured in New Exhibit at High Museum

After 70 years in the library at Talladega College in Alabama, six murals by artist Hale Woodruff are on display in Atlanta. They tell the story of not only the early years of the school, but also of an event that changed history.

The six colorful murals at the High Museum of Art, known as Rising Up, are considered among the greatest achievements of artist Hale Woodruff.  They tell a story of an educational movement that former ambassador and civil rights leader Andrew Young says changed the world.

“The paintings by Hale Woodruff were done in the late 30s. The story of a slave rebellion that ended up turning out just right,” said Young.

One mural depicts the mutiny on the slave ship the Amistad in 1839.  The slaves were captured and jailed. According to Young, their actions caught the attention of students at the Yale Divinity School.

“And they said these are not savages, these are human beings. So they got our fourth president, John Quincy Adams, to come out of retirement to take their case to the Supreme Court and they were set free,” said Young.

The trial of the Amistad captives depicts the court proceedings that followed the mutiny. The repatriation of the freed captives portrays their subsequent freedom. Some returned to Africa. Some stayed in America, becoming instrumental in helping to establish schools.

“They really did set up a network of almost 500 schools and colleges to educate former slaves,” Young said.

Among those schools, Talladega College, which opened in 1867, recently collaborated with the High Museum to meticulously conserve and restore the vibrant colors of the murals for a national tour that begins in Atlanta.

“Hale Woodruff was an Atlanta based artist for about 15 years and really established an art program here for African-Americans, something that hadn’t been available before,” said High Museum curator Stephanie Mayer-Heydt.

“So it’s really a great opportunity for our institution. Talladega College owns these murals and now we will share this great treasure,” said the president of Talladega College, Dr. Billy C. Hawkins.

Young says he first saw the murals when he was speaking at a religious emphasis week at Talladega College back in 1958. That also happened to be the first time he ever met Martin Luther King, Jr. He says the High Museum should be commended for taking on the project.

Source: Fox Atlanta

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