Little Known Black History Fact: Hale Woodruff

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  • Hale Woodruff was an African-American artist and one of the first college professors of studio art in Georgia. Woodruff moved to Paris in the 1920’s, where he joined the “Negro Colony” of artists like poet Claude McKay, sculptor Augusta Savage, philosopher Alain Locke and international performer, Josephine Baker. Woodruff returned to the U.S. four years later to teach students at Atlanta University. He taught classes at surrounding Spelman and Morehouse Colleges and brought major exhibits from around the country to the Atlanta University Center.

    Woodruff’s major inspiration was Mexican painter Diego Rivera, a muralist, whom he met while spending time in Mexico.

    Woodruff was born in 1900 in Cairo, Illinois. His mother was an impressive artist, inspiring Woodruff to occupy his time with drawing as a child. He furthered his art education at the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis and the Fogg Museum at Harvard University.

    Woodruff and friend Palmer Hayden won the Harmon award from the Harmon Foundation in 1936. The two received national acclaim. Edward Jackson, who was the governor of Indiana and a leading member of the state’s Ku Klux Klan, made a special trip to place the pin on Woodruff for his prestigious honor. The people of Franklin, Indiana (mostly white), held a fundraiser for Woodruff and raised $200 for his studies in Europe.

    Some of Woodruff’s famous murals were: The Amistad Mutiny, The Negro in California History and the Art of the Negro. His paintings from the Talledega collection are now on display at the State Fair of Texas. The full exhibit, Rising Up: Hale Woodruff’s Murals From Talladega College, will live at the African-American Museum in Dallas until February. The Texas museum is the only independent African-American museum to host this show in the country. Woodruff’s work was first viewed in Texas in 1936 at the “Hall of Negro Life” during the states’ centennial celebration.

    Hale Woodruff died in September 1980.
     

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