“A mural is a teaching.” —Hale Woodruff, 1970*
Established in 1867, Talladega College was one of the nation’s first colleges for African Americans after the Civil War. William Savery and Thomas Tarrant, former slaves, founded the school with the belief that educating youth was an essential step in preserving black liberties.
The college’s first purchased building hosted forty students. The building had previously housed a school for whites built by slaves—among them Savery and Tarrant. Over the years, Talladega College grew to acquire new buildings and more students. In the 1930s, the college started construction on its newest addition: Savery Library.
The artist Hale Woodruff, an adjunct professor at the school, accepted a commission to paint a series of murals for the library’s dedication. His six large-scale murals depict stories of survival and progress—from the Amistad mutiny in 1839 to scenes from the Underground Railroad and the construction of Savery Library.
This Saturday, June 9, Woodruff’s murals will make their debut at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. The High partnered with Talladega College for the restoration and exhibition of the murals. The exhibition, Rising Up: Hale Woodruff’s Murals at Talladega College, will feature the murals alongside thirty-seven other works by Woodruff, including paintings he created in Mexico and France.
Marquand Books produced the 156-page exhibition catalogue, which was designed by Susan E. Kelly. The vibrant catalogue features more than ninety color illustrations and includes essays by Stephanie Meyer Heydt, Renée Ater, and David C. Driskell.
* Stephanie Meyer Heydt. Rising Up: Hale Woodruff’s Murals at Talladega College. (Atlanta: High Museum of Art, 2012), 121.
photography by Jeremy Linden