University of Tennessee Unveils Hidden Mural From 1955 Depicting “Happy Slaves”

In 1955 New York artist Marion Greenwood painted a mural at the student center of the University of Tennessee depicting the musical heritage of the state of Tennessee. The mural shows images of Tennessee’s country and gospel music as well as the blues. The origins of blues music were portrayed by “happy slaves” on the plantation. These images became offensive to many black students on campus and the mural was covered by wood paneling in 1972.

Recently the mural was uncovered for a public viewing to foster discussion about historical issues. But after a brief showing the mural was once again covered by the wood paneling. The university plans to remove the mural to a campus gallery for restoration where it will be placed on permanent exhibit.