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[Black History] A Brief History of Tuskegee University


Tuskegee University originally called the Negro Normal School in Tuskegee was founded in a one room shanty, near Butler Chapel AME Zion Church, by Dr. Booker T. Washington on July 4, 1881.

A $2,000 appropriation, for teachers’ salaries, was authorized by the legislation. Lewis Adams, Thomas Dryer, and M. B. Swanson formed the board of commissioners to get the school organized. There was no land, no buildings, no teachers only State legislation authorizing the school. George W. Campbell subsequently replaced Dryer as a commissioner. And it was Campbell, through his nephew, who sent word to Hampton Institute in Virginia looking for a teacher.

Tuskegee rose to national prominence under the leadership of its founder, Dr. Washington, who headed the institution from 1881 until his death at age 59 in 1915. During his tenure, institutional independence was gained in 1892, again through legislation, when Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute was granted authority to act independent of the state of Alabama.

Robert R. Moton, president of Tuskegee from 1915 to 1935, brought the Tuskegee Airmen flight training program to the Institute. The all-Black squadrons of Tuskegee Airmen were highly decorated World War II combat veterans and forerunners of the modern day Civil Rights Movement. Dr. Patterson is also credited with founding the United Negro College Fund, which to date has raised more than $1 billion for student aid. Dr. Luther H. Foster became president of Tuskegee Institute in 1953.

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