An Alabama-based historically Black college (HBCU) has taken the necessary steps to ensure that pieces of historic Black art are preserved. According to the Associated Press, Talladega College opened a new museum that will house paintings that visually capture the story surrounding the Amistad slave ship.
The murals—which were created by artist Hale Woodruff—were commissioned by the institution 82 years ago. They lived in the college’s library for almost 70 years. In 2008, after undergoing restoration with the help of the Atlanta-based High Museum of Art, the poignant pieces embarked on a national tour. Now the paintings—which are worth $50 million—have returned to Talladega.
The imagery captures the historic uprising of Africans who were illegally taken captive from Sierra Leone and shipped to Cuba. After the vessel left Havana the Africans on board took over the ship and murdered the captain and cook. When the ship got to Long Island, New York it was seized, and the Africans were apprehended and later tried in Supreme Court. They ended up being released and nearly 40 of the survivors went back to Africa. “The murals are seen as a hidden jewel, but now it’s no longer a hidden jewel,” Seddrick Hill, Vice President of Institutional Advancement at Talladega College, said in a statement. “We have another reason to come to this wonderful city and explore this artwork, which means so much to a lot of people.”
The HBCU is embedded in the fabric of Black history. Talladega College was founded over 150 years ago by the descendants of slaves.
Among the donors who were instrumental in the restoration of the murals was Hampton University President, and Talladega College alum, William R. Harvey who contributed $1 million. The college’s new museum will be named after Harvey.