Tuskegee Institute

Lewis Adams, a former slave and successful tradesman, was the founding force behind the establishment of a school at Tuskegee. He made a deal to deliver African-American voters in the 1880 election. In return, the Alabama legislature passed a bill to "establish a Normal School for colored teachers at Tuskegee." He insisted on having an African-American principal and Booker T. Washington was hired.

Adams, together with George Campbell, a former slave owner, were responsible for bringing Booker T. Washington to Tuskegee. Adams bought a "good" horse, second hand lumber wagon, a plow, harness, and feed for the school.

Students relaxing in the sun.
Library of Congress
LC J694-74

Using his outstanding fundraising capabilities and negotiating skills, Washington purchased an abandoned plantation of 1,000 acres. The plantation became the nucleus of Tuskegee Institute and Tuskegee University's present campus. By 1906, the school had 156 faculty members, 1,590 students, and owned 2,300 acres of land. Although Tuskegee Institute receives an appropriation from the State of Alabama, the school remains a private institution.        

Washington brought the best African-American professionals to join him in his life's work at Tuskegee. Botanist George Washington Carver, Robert Taylor, the first black architect to graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and David A. Williston, one of the first black landscape architects in America, were faculty members. Washington appointed highly skilled industrial instructors to teach trades. Emmett Jay Scott became Booker T. Washington's secretary in 1897. Scott became a close advisor to the man he called 'the Wizard' and was instrumental in extending Washington's power and influence.

In the late 1930s, the military selected Tuskegee to train African-American pilots because of its committment to aeronautical training. It had instructors, facilities, and a climate for year-round flying.

In 1965, Tuskegee Institute was designated a national historic landmark in recognition of its contributions and advancements in education. Congress authorized the establishment of Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site in 1974. The National Historic Site includes The Oaks, Booker T. Washington's home, and the Carver Museum.

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Booker T. Washington and his private secretary, Emmett J. Scott, in his office.
Photo by Frances Benjamin Johnston
Library of Congress
LC J694-7