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Dynamic Talladega College murals arrive at NYU

Cyril Josh Barker | 7/18/2013, 2:44 p.m. | Updated on 7/18/2013, 2:45 p.m.
Some of the most treasured artwork to come from a historically Black college is on display in the city. The ...
Talladega

Some of the most treasured artwork to come from a historically Black college is on display in the city. The celebrated murals are from the historically Black Talladega College in Alabama by artist Hale Woodruff and depict monumental moments in Black history.

The exhibition, “Rising Up: Hale Woodruff’s Murals at Talladega College,” is on a three-year, nine-city tour and features six large murals by the renowned artist. The NYU exhibition is the only New York location on the tour. Talladega College commissioned Woodruff to paint a series of murals for its newly built Slavery Library in 1938. The college was founded in 1867, shortly after the Civil War, by a group of former slaves led by William Savery.

Inspired by this history, Woodruff painted six murals between 1939 and 1942 portraying significant events in the journey of African-Americans from slavery to freedom: “The Mutiny on the Amistad,” “The Trial of the Amistad Captives,” “The Repatriation of the Freed Captives,” “The Underground Railroad,” “The Building of Savery Library” and “Opening Day at Talladega College.”

Today, the murals are valued at nearly $40 million. During the last few weeks, several events have been held to welcome the murals, including a reception that brought out local Talladega College alumni and another reception given by the United Negro College Fund. Running from July 20 through Oct. 13 at the NYU 80WSE Galleries, the exhibition is sponsored by NYU’s Faculty Resource Network and the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. Woodruff was a faculty member at the NYU School of Education from 1946 to 1968 and served on the faculty at Clark Atlanta University.

“It is an honor for Talladega College to share the exhibit nationally,” said Dr. Billy C. Hawkins, president of Talladega College. “Renowned artist Hale Woodruff spent the greatest portion of his teaching career at New York University, where he received the Great Teacher Award and where he also retired. I am humbled by this opportunity for Talladega College to display what is referred to as Woodruff’s greatest work here in New York City.”