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(Restricted Gift: THE LEGACY MUSEUM)

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 the 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.  

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)-727-8888 or (334)-724-4625: 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.  

New Featured Exhibit 

                                                                                                                                 Artist Titus Kaphar with Knockout image. ​Photo is courtesy of the MacArthur Foundation.

Beginning Oct. 1, Tuskegee University’s Legacy Museum will host a temporary exhibit featuring the work of painter and sculptor Titus Kaphar. Kaphar uses his art to encourage activism, transformation and freedom — and to challenge the world to achieve self-liberation in new and self-affirming ways.

The exhibit, entitled “Knockout,” frames Kaphar’s magical and mysterious artwork in the context of boxing — more specifically, famed 20th century boxer Muhammad Ali. Just as Ali was more than a prize fighting boxer, Kaphar is more than a painter. Ali, a quintessential American cultural icon, had bedrock convictions about religious faith and race. Like Ali, Kaphar has deeply felt convictions. His paintings and sculpture deliver that same kind of Ali one-two punch that has made global audiences pay attention.

“Kaphar’s art almost defies description,” said Dr. Jontyle Robinson, The Legacy Museum’s curator. “He is a shaman and polymath. His modes and media include prints, paintings, collages and sculptures. He's a man of many seasons.”

His work interacts with art history by appropriating its styles and mediums. He cuts, bends, sculpts and mixes historic painting, creating new works between fiction and historic sampling. It combines aspects of the downtrodden with majestic elements that cannot be put down — conjuring Maya Angelou’s inspirational phrase, “and still I rise,” according to Robinson.

The subjects of Kaphar’s work focus on individuals victimized by a prejudiced society and by the criminal justice system. In some works, he uses black tar that signifies the stereotyped imagery that paints us with one brush and stifles the truth of black experiences. In other paintings, his figures are shredded or covered with pale layers of linseed oil to show how false representations of black people have covered reality.

“Kaphar encourages us to venture into ourselves and reconsider the representation of black figures in painting,” Robinson explained. “Confronting themes that are critical to our survival requires plunging into hurtful places. Kaphar pokes and prods us through his art to illuminate important ideas for viewers to consider and comprehend.”

The exhibit includes six pieces, three of which are large-format pieces, that address issues of police brutality and mass incarceration. It also will include photography showing the artist connecting with HBCU students and mentors as part of his collaboration with the HBCU Alliance of Museums and Galleries. The organization, which was founded at Tuskegee University, seeks to increase diversity in the cultural heritage sector, focusing on preservation and conservation, through its collaborations with educational institutions, museums and artists.

“Knockout” also connects with “The United States Public Health Service Untreated Syphilis Study in the Negro Male in Macon County from 1932-1972” permanent exhibition simultaneously on view at The Legacy Museum. “Knockout” provides a critical and creative framework to understand the story of the 599 African American men and their families who were part of the longest non-therapeutic study in American medical history. Together, these exhibitions demonstrate the lack of regard for black life in America.

“Demonstrating the need for education, flexibility, strength and resilience to survive in America, ‘Knockout’ shouts, ‘We matter! TKO!’,” Robinson concluded.

Kaphar’s work has been included in exhibitions at New York’s Jack Shainman Gallery, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Studio Museum in Harlem; Washington’s Seattle Art Museum; and The Legacy Museum, recently founded in Montgomery, Alabama. His art is also in the collections of New York’s Museum of Modern Art. In 2014, “Time” magazine commissioned Kaphar to create an artwork in response to the protests in Ferguson, Missouri

Knockout brochure cover image
Click to download the “Knockout”
exhibition brochure

The Kalamazoo, Michigan, native earned a BFA from San Jose State University and an MFA from the Yale School of Art — and more recently, a 2018 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, commonly known as a “Genius Grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. He currently lives and works in New Haven, Connecticut. 

“Knockout,” funded through  grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Alabama Bicentennial Commission, will be on view at The Legacy Museum through March 30, 2020. It — along with the museum’s permanent 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” — can be viewed during its operating hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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
Help Desk: 334-724-4485

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