Prior to Booker T. Washington arriving in Tuskegee, Alabama a African American man named Lewis Adams , his wife Sarah “Sallie” Green and members of Butler Chapel AME Zion church, where Adams was the deacon, attempted to open a school for African Americans in the area to receive a basic education. The school was ultimately unsuccessful, as they had difficulty locating qualified teachers. Adams knew, however, that African Americans in Tuskegee and the surrounding cities needed a school that could provide both vocational and teacher training. Little did Adams know that he would become a founder of a school that would gain national and international recognition.
Lewis Adams was born enslaved in Tuskegee, Alabama on October 27, 1842. Adams was a prominent and well known African American in the city of Tuskegee. Though he received no formal education Adams could read, write and speak several different languages.
After chattel slavery was abolished in 1865 Adams opened a trades shop and school in downtown Tuskegee where he taught tinsmithing, harness making and shoemaking. Adam’s wife, Sarah “Sallie” Green taught sewing and cooking to interested young women. Adams would become one of three men to sit on Tuskegee Institute’s first board of Trustees, then known as the Board of Commissioners. In 1890 Adams would join Tuskegee Institute’s faculty teaching his three trades. He would remain a member of the board until his passing in 1905.
Last updated: February 7, 2020