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The Sankofa Bird

The Legacy Museum

THE SANKOFA BIRD (mythology from the Akan people of West Africa) Dahomean cloth appliqué Fon People-Republic of Benin (formerly Dahomey) - West Africa Tuskegee University Library Services The Lovette W. Harper Collection of African Art.  >>>


Located at 1 Benjamin Payton Drive on the Tuskegee University campus in the former Infantile Paralysis Unit of John A. Andrew Memorial Hospital. Welcome to the Legacy Museum.

  • Opened April 2009. 
  • Created to honor the 599 participants of the United States Public Health Service Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male in Macon County, Alabama (1932-1972). 
  • Designed with two floors of exhibition space (nearly 9,000 square feet). 
  • Treasured Tuskegee University historical moments in public health, science, medicine, and the visual arts collection are highlighted in exhibitions and displays. 

Included in the collections are African, African American, American, European, and Oceanic art amassed over 130 years. Antique furniture is also a part of the collection. Art created by renowned artists such as Edmonia Lewis, William Edouard Scott, William H. Harper, Henry Ossawa Tanner, William H. Johnson, Ernest Crichlow, Floyd Colman and Benny Andrews have been donated to the museum.

About the Legacy Museum

Welcome to the Tuskegee University Legacy Museum

The LEGACY MUSEUM is part of a consortium of museums at Tuskegee University that includes the Dr. George Washington Carver Museum, The Booker T. Washington Home-The Oaks and the Tuskegee Airmen Museum. the LEGACY MUSEUM exhibits works from its art collection and interprets, additionally, public health, science and medicine. The Museum's exhibitions and programs reach international audiences and history buffs and art enthusiasts of all ages.

Located in the National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care/ John A. Kenney Hall, The LEGACY MUSEUM is an outgrowth of the Official Proclamation by President William Jefferson Clinton against the misdeeds of the United States Public Health Service in its Untreated Syphilis Study in the Negro Male in Macon County, Alabama, 1932-1972.

On the third floor of the museum are two exhibits. The Patient, The Project, The Partnership: The Mass Production and Distribution of HeLa cells at Tuskegee University and the United States Public Health Service Untreated Syphilis Study in the Negro Male, 1932-1972.

From left to right: Dr. Russell Brown, Ms. Henrietta Lacks and Dr. James H.M. Henderson 

The HeLa Cell exhibit celebrates the life of he Virginia born Henrietta Lacks, who was a tobacco farmer who suffered from an aggressive form of cervical cancer which landed her at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, MD. Her cells, harvested without her knowledge or that of her family, were discovered to possess the unique characteristics of growing and reproducing beyond measure. HeLa’s growth characteristics made it the ideal alternative primate host cell source for the massive testing of Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine. Tuskegee University’s Carver Foundation was one of the sites selected to mass produce the cell line and distribute it to laboratories worldwide for polio vaccine testing and a variety of research projects from which we all benefit today.

A suggested donation to the LEGACY MUSEUM is appreciated and there are brochures, posters, tee-shirts, and other LEGACY MUSEUM offerings available that celebrate our exhibition and the museum.  Click here to find out more about the COLLECTIONS contained in The Legacy Museum.

The LEGACY MUSEUM is open from 10:00 a.m until 4:00 p.m. Monday-Friday and is closed during official University breaks. Click here for the Tuskegee University Academic Calendar. Admission is free and open to the public. Suggested donation is $3.00 per person. All contributions are welcome. Email: Telephone Contacts: (334)-725-2342 or (334)-727-8888 Fax: (334)-725-2400. 

We are located at 1 Benjamin Payton Dr., Tuskegee AL 36088 click here for directions.

The LEGACY MUSEUM operates under the auspices of Tuskegee University Library Services.  

Exhibits at the Legacy Museum

 "Playing the Changes: The Life and Legacy of Milt Hinton"

A current exhibit and upcoming events at Tuskegee University’s Legacy Museum will memorialize famed legendary bass player and photographer Milton John Hinton. During his seven-decade career, Hinton became one of the most recorded bassists in history, while also capturing behind-the-scenes life in music.

During the week of September 11-14, the Legacy Museum will host “Playing the Changes: The Life and Legacy of Milt Hinton,” a traveling exhibition of the Oberlin Conservatory Library. The exhibit combines Hinton’s original photographs with insightful biographical materials.

The exhibit provides an unrivaled perspective on the life and legacy of one of the 20th century’s most accomplished bass players, while also documenting the sobering racial inequalities faced by African-Americans throughout the 20th century.

Aretha Franklin, recording studio New York City, c. 1961

The grandson of a slave growing up in rural Mississippi, Hinton knew the realities of racism. Discrimination continued during his Jim Crow-era travels with the Cab Calloway Orchestra in the 1930s and ‘40s. Later, segregation persisted when Hinton worked to break through the color line in New York recording studios.

“The title of this exhibit, ‘Playing the Changes,’ is metaphoric because Milt Hinton did just that — he played the changes of life by dealing with life in a segregated America, overcoming hardship, and being able to see America change throughout the years,” said Legacy Museum curator, Dr. Jontyle Robinson.

Through his hard work, Hinton became known as a first-call studio musician in the recording industry.

“Mr. Hinton would be one of the firsts that recording agencies would call, because he was reliable, talented and creative,” noted Robinson. “He worked with performers across the spectrum of styles, from Cab Calloway to Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Barbara Streisand to Paul McCartney.”

Not only was he a musician, but Hinton developed an interest in and eye for photography. He began taking photographs of his friends in the 1930s and, during the following six decades, his collection grew to more than 60,000 images.

One of his photographs on display as part of the exhibit is of recently deceased Aretha Franklin, during a recording session. In the photo, a confident Franklin is seen before or between a set — “serene, perfectly dressed, perched atop a stool with legs crossed at the ankles and her feet splendidly adorned in wonderful high-heeled shoes,” Robinson noted.

“Mr. Hinton reveals his mastery of the camera in the manner like no other. He was rare in that he was a master of both the musical and visual arts,” Robinson said.

The exhibit includes 50 framed black-and white pigment prints that highlight Hinton’s passion for capturing moments in history. The prints are featured selections from the Milton J. and Mona C. Hinton Collection and the Oberlin Conservatory Library Special Collections.

“He captured and documented the extraordinary lives of several notable celebrities, including Wynton Marsalis and Cab Calloway — you name them, and they’re on the walls of the Legacy Museum,” Robinson noted.

In conjunction with the Milt Hinton exhibit, David Berger and Holly Maxson will show their film and lead a question-and-answer session focused on Hinton on Wednesday at 4 p.m.

Thursday’s events honoring Hinton will begin at 4 p.m. with Dr. Willie Ruff’s media presentation — “A Tuskegee-trained Tailor, Mr. Handy’s Blues, a Band and a Parade” — followed by a musical performance by Antoine Roney and Kojo Roney.

“Because of the accommodation of music and the visual arts, we like to highlight interdisciplinary exhibits in the museum to educate our students. Through this effort, we hope to open their eyes to our continued history,” Robinson explained. 

The exhibit is sponsored by Jock Reynolds, former director of the Yale University Art Gallery, and his wife, Suzanne Hellmuth.

“The Legacy Museum is proud to have this important exhibition, and we could not have done this without the support and generosity of Jock and Suzanne. This is a phenomenal exhibit and we urge everyone to come and view it,” Robinson said.

The “Playing the Changes: The Life and Legacy of Milt Hinton” exhibition will be on display through the end of 2018. It is open to the public without an appointment during the Legacy Museum’s normal hours of operation — Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Benjamin F. Payton: A Legacy in Art
and History

The Lovette W. Harper Collection of
African Art

Letters from Our Visitors

Mass Prod. & Distribution of HeLa Cells
(Excerpt by Dr. Jontyle Robinson)

Hours of Operation

Monday-Friday  10am-4pm

Contact Us

Phone: 334-727-8889 or 8888
Fax: 334-725-2400