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.
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.