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Hale Woodruff collection

 Collection — Box: 1-3
Identifier: 0000-0000-0000-0062

Scope and contents

Hale Aspacio Woodruff (b.1900-d.1980) was a renowned artist and educator. Although Woodruff never earned a formal degree he studied extensively, attending the John Herron Art School in Indianapolis, Indiana; the Chicago Art Institute; Academie Moderne and Academie Scandinave in Paris, France; Fog Art Museum of Harvard University; and he studied in Mexico with Diego Rivera. In 1926 Woodruff won the Harmon Foundation Bronze Award giving him national recognition. Soon thereafter he travelled to Europe to continue his studies. A highlight of his time in Europe was the opportunity to meet with Henry O. Tanner. Specializing in landscapes, murals and woodcuts, Woodruff exhibited extensively and was commissioned to do numerous works of art. Among his most outstanding works are the murals - The Amistad Mural, and The Founding of Talledega College, Talledega College, Alabama, The Art of the Negro, Atlanta University, Georgia, The Golden State Mural, Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company, California. Major exhibitions honoring Woodruff include Hale Woodruff: 50 Years of His Art, Studio Museum of Harlem, second retrospective exhibition in its Black Masters Series, 1979) and Homage to Hale Woodruff , Waddell Gallery, Atlanta University, 1981.

Hale Woodruff also distinguished himself as an educator. Through the encouragement of President John Hope, Woodruff reluctantly began his teaching career at the Atlanta University Center in 1931. He worked at the University following the Depression and through the second World War, a time when funds and resources were limited and segregation laws and practices severely restricted African American life. Despite these hindrances, Woodruff helped develop an art curriculum and built a strong faculty that attracted students and brought national recognition to the Atlanta University Center. To broaden awareness of his students, Woodruff arranged for major art shows to be exhibited at the Atlanta University Center. He encouraged students to exhibit and compete and in 1932 started an annual student exhibition. Among his most noted achievements was the establishment of the Atlanta University Annual Exhibition of Paintings, Sculpture and Prints by Negro Artists. This national juried competition for new and established artists was held from 1942 through 1970. It provided a venue and recognition for Negro artists during a period when opportunities were greatly restricted due to segregation and discrimination practices in the United States. Through these exhibitions many artists received national exposure and Atlanta University developed one of the most prestigious collections of art by African Americans. Woodruff left Atlanta University in 1946 to accept a position at New York University, where he retired in 1967.

This small collection about Hale Woodruff is primarily materials accumulated by Winifred Stoelting in doing research for her dissertation, Hale Woodruff, Artist and Teacher: Through the Atlanta Years, Emory University, 1978. In September 1978, upon completion of the dissertation, Dr. Stoelting donated her research materials to the Atlanta University Trevor Arnett Library Negro Collection. These research materials consist of audio cassette tapes of interviews with Woodruff’s students and colleagues, correspondence from Woodruff, and slides of his work.

In addition to these research materials there are a few other pieces of correspondence. Among these are photocopies of letters of Hale Woodruff to Mrs. Millicent Dobbs Jordan in reference to a commissioned work, Cinque Exhorts his Captives. The collection also includes copies of brochures for the mural, The Art of the Negro and programs from In Memory of Hale Aspacio Woodruff (1900-1980) and the accompanying exhibit Homage to Hale Woodruff, held at Atlanta University in 1981.

An appendix to this finding aid is a list of artwork by Hale Woodruff that is in the collections of the Atlanta University Center, Robert W. Woodruff Library.


  • 1930-1981
  • Majority of material found within 1977 - 1978


Use restrictions

The original tapes do not circulate. Use copies of the tapes has been made for research.


Biographical Sketch

1900 August 26
Born in Cairo, Illinois, the only child of George and Augusta Bell Woodruff
1919 Summer
Completed high school in Nashville, Tennessee
Woodruff's artwork included at exhibits at the Indiana State Fairs, Indianapolis Y.M.C.A., Indianapolis Museum and the Herron Art Museum
1920 Fall
Entered John Herron Art School, Indianapolis, Indiana (unable to complete studies because of financial difficulties)
Won the Harmon Foundation Bronze Award, bringing national recognition to his work
Wrote articles on the art scene in France for The Indianapolis Star
Studied and traveled in Europe (primarily in France)
1931 Fall
Returned to the United States and accepted a position at Atlanta University that included teaching art at the Laboratory High School and Oglethorpe [elementary] School
Taught art at Atlanta University Center, helped develop the art curriculum and brought major art shows to the campuses
1932 Spring
Organized the first annual art show for students at the Atlanta University Center
Collaborated with Wilmer Jennings in painting a four-part mural, The Negro in Modern American Life: Agriculture and Rural Life; Literature, Music, and Art (David T. Howard Junior High School, Atlanta, Georgia)
1934 June 14
Married Theresa Baker of Topeka, Kansas
Painted mural for the Atlanta School of Social Work
1935 March 30
Birth of son, Roy
Painted The Amistad Mural, Talledega College, Alabama
Taught art courses in the People’s College, a community program sponsored by Atlanta University
Lecturer for the Association of American Colleges
Worked in New York as recipient of a Julius Rosenwald Fund Fellowship for Creative Painting
Returned to work at Atlanta University and commissioned to paint murals for the Trevor Arnett Library
Accepted teaching position at New York University
Collaborated with Charles Alston on The Golden State Mural,Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company, California
The Art of the Negro mural installed at the Trevor Arnett Library,Atlanta
Honored as "Great Teacher of the Year" by the New York University Alumni Association
Retired from New York University
1967 May 15- June 8
Hale Woodruff, An Exhibition of Selected Paintings and Drawings, New York University
1968 May 21-June 14
Hale A. Woodruff Paintings, Prints and Watercolors, Morgan State College
1974 April 7-30
Selected Drawings of Hale Woodruff, Spelman College
1975 April 11- May 3
Hale Woodruff An Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings Acts of Art, New York City
1979 April 29 - June 24
Hale Woodruff, 50 Years of His Art -Studio Museum of Harlem exhibition, Black Masters Series
1980 September 6
Died in New York City, buried September 10 in Topeka Kansas (the native home of his wife Theresa Baker Woodruff


1 Linear feet

Language of Materials



The Collection is arranged into four series: 1. Winifred Stoelting's Research Materials; 2. Letters and Programs; 3. Audio Cassette Tapes; 4. Artwork of Hale Woodruff In the Collections of Atlanta University Center, Robert W. Woodruff Library.

Related materials

Materials related to the Hale Woodruff Collection can be found in the Countee Cullen-Harold Jackman Memorial Collection (Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library); Hale Woodruff Papers Amistad Research Center (Tulane University); Hale Woodruff Papers, Archives of American Art (Smithsonian Institution) and Stoelting, Winifred. Hale Woodruff, Artist and Teacher: Through the Atlanta Years (Emory University, 1978) N6537 .W67 S70 1978.

Hale Woodruff collection, 1930-1981
Finding aid prepared by Karen Jefferson and Cathy Mundale, 2001 January.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center, Inc. Repository


404-978-2109 (Fax)