Hale Woodruff

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Hale Woodruff

Hale Aspacio Woodruff (August 26, 1900 - September 6, 1980) was an African-American artist known for his murals, paintings, and prints. He sought to express his sense of heritage in abstract painting. His three-panel work, Amistad Mutiny murals (1938-1942), is held at Talladega College in Talladega County, Alabama.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Cairo, Illinois in 1900, Hale Aspacio Woodruff grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, where he attended local segregated schools. He studied at the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis and at the Chicago Institute of Art. Next he spent four "crucial years studying in Paris from 1927-31."[1]

After working for a time as an art instructor, Woodruff went to Mexico in 1936. That year, he studied under Diego Rivera as an apprentice, learning his fresco technique and becoming interested in portrayal of figures.[1]

Art career[edit]

Woodruff applied his understanding of Post-Impressionism and Cubism to painting for social advocacy after his return to the United States in 1936.

Among Woodruff's well-known works is the three-panel Amistad Mutiny murals (1938), held at Talladega College in Talladega County, Alabama. The murals, commissioned and painted during the Great Depression, are entitled: The Revolt, The Court Scene, and Back to Africa, portraying events related to the 18th-century slave revolt on the Amistad. Located in Savery Library, they depict events on the ship, the U.S. Supreme Court trial, and the Mende people's return to Africa.

The library has an image of the ship that is embedded in its lobby floor. College tradition prohibits walking "on" the ship, despite its central location. In addition, the library has other Woodruff murals exploring other events from African-American history, including freedmen enrolling at the college after the American Civil War.


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