Tuskegee University

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Tuskegee University is a private, historically black university in Tuskegee with 2,877 students enrolled. It was founded in 1881 as the Tuskegee Normal School for Colored Teachers before adopting its long-time designation as Tuskegee Institute. The school was led for its first 34 years by famed educator Booker T. Washington.

Tuskegee University is also famed as the home of biologist George Washington Carver and of World War II's Tuskegee Airmen. The historic center of the 2,300-acre campus is recognized as a National Historic Site.

Tuskegee University offers 40 bachelor's degree programs, 17 master's degree programs, a 5-year accredited professional degree program in architecture, 4 doctoral degree programs, and the doctor of veterinary medicine.


Planning and establishment

The school's charter came as a result of an agreement made during the 1880 general election between State Senator W. F. Foster and Lewis Adams, a former slave who had become a skilled craftsman, an official of the Prince Hall Masons, and a leader in Macon County's majority Black community. Foster promised that if Adams could secure enough Black votes to return him to office, that he would push for the state to establish a school for Black teachers in the county. Adams succeeded and Foster followed through with his promise.

Thus the Tuskegee Normal School for Colored Teachers was commissioned on July 4, 1881, though no funding was provided with the charter. Adams was joined by Thomas Dryer and M. B. Swanson on the first board of commissioners. After Dryer's death, Adams recruited white banker George W. Campbell to take his place. Campbell helped secure $2,000 from the State of Alabama for teachers' salaries. Campbell wrote to the Hampton Institute, a historically black college in Virginia, requesting the recommendation of a teacher for their new school. Samuel Armstrong, Hampton's principal, recommended 25-year-old Booker T. Washington, an alumnus and teacher at Hampton, for the job.

As the newly hired principal in Tuskegee, Washington began classes for his new school in the Butler Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. The following year he purchased a 100-acre former plantation. The earliest campus buildings were constructed on that property, often by students as part of their work-study. Many students earned all or part of their expenses through the construction, agricultural, and domestic work associated with the campus, as they reared livestock and raised crops, as well as producing other goods.

Based on his experience at the Hampton Institute, Washington intended to train students in skills, morals, and religious life, in addition to academic subjects. Washington urged the teachers he trained "to return to the plantation districts and show the people there how to put new energy and new ideas into farming as well as into the intellectual and moral and religious life of the people." Washington's second wife Olivia A. Davidson, was instrumental to the success and helped raise funds for the school.

Gradually, a rural extension program was developed, to take progressive ideas and training to those who could not come to the campus. Tuskegee alumni founded smaller schools and colleges throughout the South; they continued to emphasize teacher training.

The continuing expansion of black education took place against a background of increased violence against blacks in the South. The Alabama Democratic Party led opposition against Reconstruction and adopted a white supremacist political platform which carried into the drafting of the Alabama Constitution of 1901. Under that constitution, state and county governments instituted wide-ranging segregation and systematic disfranchisement of Black voters.

Against this background, Washington's vision, as expressed in his "Atlanta compromise" speech, was poorly received by activists such as W. E. B. Du Bois, who argued that Blacks should not be limited to vocational training, and should have opportunities for study the classical curriculum as well. Washington gradually attracted notable scholars to Tuskegee, including botanist George Washington Carver, one of the university's most renowned professors.

By the start of the 20th century, the Tuskegee Institute occupied nearly 2,300 acres.


Perceived as a spokesman for black "industrial" education, Washington developed a network of wealthy American philanthropists who donated to the school, such as Andrew Carnegie, Collis Huntington, John D. Rockefeller, Henry H. Rogers, George Eastman, and Elizabeth Milbank Anderson. An early champion of the concept of matching funds, Henry Rogers was a major anonymous contributor to Tuskegee and dozens of other black schools for more than fifteen years.

The university's campus was designed by architect Robert Taylor, the first African American to graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in conjunction with David Williston, the first professionally trained African-American landscape architect.

Thanks to recruitment efforts on the island and contacts with the U.S. military, Tuskegee had a particularly large population of Afro-Cuban students during these years. Following small-scale recruitments prior to the 1898–1899 school year, the university quickly gained popularity among ambitious Afro-Cubans. In the first three decades of the school's existence, dozens of Afro-Cubans enrolled at Tuskegee each year, becoming the largest population of foreign students at the school.


Washington developed a major relationship with Julius Rosenwald, an executive for Sears, Roebuck & Company in Chicago, Illinois. He had long been concerned about the lack of educational resources for Blacks, especially in the South. After meeting with Washington, Rosenwald agreed to serve on Tuskegee's Board of Directors. He also worked with Washington to stimulate funding to train teachers' schools such as Tuskegee and Hampton institutes.

Washington was a tireless fundraiser for the institute. In 1905 he kicked off an endowment campaign, raising money all over America in 1906 for the 25th anniversary of the institution. Along with wealthy donors, he gave a lecture at Carnegie Hall in New York on January 23, 1906, called the "Tuskegee Institute Silver Anniversary Lecture", at which Mark Twain spoke.

Beginning with a pilot program in 1912, Rosenwald created model rural schools and stimulated construction of new schools across the South. Tuskegee architects developed the model plans, and some students helped build the schools. Rosenwald created a fund but required communities to raise matching funds, to encourage local collaboration between blacks and whites. Rosenwald and Washington stimulated the construction and operation of more than 5,000 small community schools and supporting resources for the education of blacks throughout the rural South, into the 1930s.

Despite his travels and widespread work, Washington continued as principal of Tuskegee. Concerned about the educator's health, Rosenwald encouraged him to slow his pace. In 1915, Washington died at the age of 59, as a result of high blood pressure. At his death, Tuskegee's endowment exceeded US$1.5 million. He was buried on the campus near the chapel.

Tuskegee, in cooperation with church missionary activity, work to set up industrial training programs in Africa.


The years after World War I challenged the basis of the Tuskegee Institute. Teaching was still seen as a critical calling, but southern society was changing rapidly. Attracted by the growth of industrial jobs in the North, including the rapid expansion of the Pennsylvania Railroad, suffering job losses because of the boll weevil and increasing mechanization of agriculture, and fleeing extra-legal violence, hundreds of thousands of rural blacks moved from the South to Northern and Midwestern industrial cities in the Great Migration. A total of 1.5 million moved during this period. In the South, industrialization was occurring in cities such as Birmingham and other booming areas. The programs at Tuskegee, based on an agricultural economy, had to change. During and after World War II, migration to the North continued, with California added as a destination because of its defense industries. A total of 5 million Blacks moved out of the South from 1940–1970.

World War II

In 1941, in an effort to train black aviators, the U.S. Army Air Corps established a training program at Tuskegee Institute, using Moton Field, about four miles from the center of campus. The graduates became known as the Tuskegee Airmen. The Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site at Moton Field was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. The U.S. Army, Air Force, and Navy have ROTC programs on campus today.

Numerous presidents have visited Tuskegee, including Franklin D. Roosevelt. Eleanor Roosevelt was also interested in the Institute and its aeronautical school. In 1941 she visited Tuskegee Army Air Field and worked to have African Americans get the chance as pilots in the military. She corresponded with F.D. Patterson, the third president of the Tuskegee Institute, and frequently lent her support to programs.


The noted Alabama-born architect Paul Rudolph was commissioned in 1958 to produce a new campus master plan. In 1960 he was awarded, along with the partnership of John A. Welch & Louis Fry, the commission for a new chapel, perhaps the most significant modern building constructed in Alabama.

The postwar decades were a time of continued expansion for Tuskegee, which added new programs and departments, adding graduate programs in several fields to reflect the rise of professional studies. For example, its School of Veterinary Medicine was added in 1944. Mechanical Engineering was added in 1953, and a four-year program in Architecture in 1957, with a six-year program in 1965.

In 1985, Tuskegee Institute achieved university status and was renamed Tuskegee University.

In July 2020, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott made an unrestricted donation of $20 million to the university, the largest single gift in Tuskegee's history. Google awarded a $5 million unrestricted grant to the university in 2021.

In 2024 the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama filed charges against 10 individuals for "conspiracy to commit federal program theft," involving grant funds awarded to Tuskegee before 2020.


Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site

In 1965 Tuskegee University was declared a National Historic Landmark for the significance of its academic programs, its role in higher education for African-Americans, and its status in United States history. Congress authorized the establishment of the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site.

The National Historic Site includes The Oaks, Booker T. Washington's home and the George Washington Carver Museum. As the landmark designation did not define a limited area, the district is believed to have included the entire Tuskegee University campus at the time.

Points of "special historic interest," noted in the landmark description include:

The Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site is at Moton Field, in Tuskegee, Alabama.


The academic programs are organized into five colleges and two schools: (1) The College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition Sciences; (2) The College of Arts and Sciences; (3) The Brimmer College of Business and Information Science; (4) The College of Engineering; (5) The College of Veterinary Medicine, Nursing and Allied Health; (6), The Taylor School of Architecture and Construction Science; and (7) The School of Education.

Tuskegee University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award Baccalaureate, Master's, Doctorate, and professional degrees. The following academic programs are accredited by national agencies: Architecture, Business, Education, Engineering, Clinical Laboratory Sciences, Nursing, Occupational Therapy, Social Work, and Veterinary Medicine.

Tuskegee University is the only historically Black university to offer the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.). Its School of Veterinary Medicine was established in 1944. The school is fully accredited by the Council on Education of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

Tuskegee University offers several Engineering degree programs all with ABET accreditation.

The Aerospace Science Engineering department was established in 1983. Tuskegee University is the first and only historically Black university to offer an accredited degree in aerospace engineering. The Mechanical Engineering Department was established in 1954 and the Chemical Engineering Department began in 1977; The Department of Electrical Engineering is the largest of five departments within the College of Engineering. The program is accredited by EAC/ABET (Engineering Accreditation Commission/Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

The Tuskegee University Andrew F. Brimmer College of Business and Information Science is fully accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB-International).

The school of Nursing was established as the Tuskegee Institute Training School of Nurses and registered with the Alabama State board of Nursing, September 1892 under the auspices of the John A. Andrew Memorial Hospital. In 1948 the university began its baccalaureate program in Nursing; becoming the first nursing program in the state of Alabama. The Nursing department holds full accreditation from the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission and is approved by the Alabama State Board of Nursing.

The Occupational Therapy program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association. The Clinical Laboratory Science Program is accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences. (NAACLS)

Tuskegee University began offering certificates in Architecture under the Division of Mechanical Industries in 1893. The 4-year curriculum in architecture leading to the Bachelor of Science degree was initiated in 1957 and the professional 6-year program in 1965. The Robert R. Taylor School of Architecture offers two professional programs: Architecture, and Construction Science and Management. The 5-year Bachelor of Architecture program is fully accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). Graduates of the program are qualified to become registered architects.

In 2019, Tuskegee signed a partnership with the Ross University School of Medicine to help redress diversity shortages in the medical field. Qualified Tuskegee students automatically gain admissions into the medical school with a tuition free first semester.

Tuskegee's National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care is the nation's first bioethics center devoted to engaging the sciences, humanities, law and religious faiths in the exploration of the core moral issues which underlie research and medical treatment of African Americans and other under-served people. The official launching of the Center took place two years after President Bill Clinton's apology to the nation, the survivors of the study, Tuskegee University, the City of Tuskegee and Macon County for the four-decade U.S. Public Health Service medical experiment during which 399 poor—and mostly illiterate—African American sharecroppers with syphilis were observed without being given treatment to document the natural history and progression of the disease.

In 2024 Tuskegee announced the establishment of the Tuskegee University Flight School, operated in partnership with Republic Airways' Leadership in Flight Training Academy. The program will offer 18-month certifications as well as a 4-year bachelor's degree in aviation science.


Tuskegee is a member of the NCAA Division II, competing as members of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC). The university has a total of 10 varsity sports teams, five men's teams called the "Golden Tigers", and five women's teams called the "Tigerettes".

Tuskegee's Men's Basketball won the 2014 SIAC Championship and the 2014 NCAA Division South Region Championship. The Golden Tigers also made it to the Elite Eight during the 2014 NCAA Men's Division II Basketball Tournament. Tuskegee's Women's Softball won the 2014 SIAC Championship.

The Tuskegee Department of Athletics sponsors intercollegiate teams in baseball, basketball, football, softball, track and field, tennis, volleyball


The Tuskegee University football team has won 29 SIAC championships (the most in SIAC history). As of 2013 the Golden Tigers continue to be the most successful HBCU with 652 wins.

In 2013 Tuskegee opted not to renew its contract to face rival Alabama State University (Division I FCS) in the Turkey Day Classic, the oldest black college football classic in the country. Instead, after going 10–2 the Golden Tigers made their first playoff appearance in school history for the 2013 NCAA Division II Football Championship, for which they had qualified in the past but could not participate due to the Turkey Day Classic. Tuskegee competed against the University of North Alabama in the first round of the playoffs, but lost 30–27.

Tuskegee won the 2014 SIAC Football Championship and advanced to the first round of the NCAA Division II football playoffs with a loss of 20–17 to the University of West Georgia.


The baseball program has won thirteen SIAC championships and has produced several professional players, including Major League players Leon Wagner, Ken Howell, Alan Mills and Roy Lee Jackson.


Tuskegee won the 2013–14 SIAC Championship and advanced to the 2014 NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Tournament. Tuskegee won the NCAA Division II South Regional Championship by defeating Delta State University 80-59.

The Golden Tigers fell to No. 1-ranked Metropolitan State University of Denver, 106-87, in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division II tournament at Ford Center, in Evansville, Indiana.

Track and field

Track began (men and women) at Tuskegee in 1916. The first Tuskegee Relays and Meet was held on May 7, 1927; it was the oldest African American relay meet.

The Tuskegee women's team won the championship of the Amateur Athletic Union national senior outdoor meet for all athletes 14 times in 1937–1942 and 1944–1951. The team likewise won the AAU national indoor championship four times in 1941, 1945, 1946 and 1948.

Tuskegee's Alice Coachman was the first African American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in any sport, at the 1948 Olympic Games in London. Iram Lewis, a Tuskegee graduate of architecture, is an Olympian relay runner who competed for the Bahamas.

Notable faculty and staff

Notable alumni


  • "Tuskegee University" (July 29, 2020) Wikipedia - accessed July 29, 2020
  • Leech, Marie (April 19, 2024) "Alabama university to create flight school." Birmingham Business Journal
  • Robinson, Carol (May 13, 2024) "10 accused of conspiracy in theft of money from Tuskegee University." AL.com

External links