July 4, 1881
The Tuskegee State Normal School, now Tuskegee University, was founded July 4, 1881. At the urging of Lewis Adams, an influential black leader, a bill was passed to open the school in Macon County. Although the bill provided $2,000 annually to pay the faculty, no money was set aside for infrastructure. Booker T. Washington, an instructor at Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) in Virginia, accepted the challenge to lead the new school. With no money for instructional space, Booker held classes at a nearby African Methodist Episcopal church. The school soon purchased an abandoned 100-acre plantation, which is the central part of the campus today. The first 30 students graduated in 1885. Washington’s students built the school from the ground up, in exchange for tuition. Students constructed a kiln where they made bricks for the buildings. It was Washington’s way of providing students with skills they could use in future jobs. Today, Tuskegee University has an enrollment of about 3,000 students and offers 60 programs of study in five colleges. The campus is 450 acres and has an additional 4,500 acres for forest and agricultural experiments and research. U.S. News and World Reports ranked Tuskegee University as the top historically black college in Alabama and sixth nationally.
Read more at Encyclopedia of Alabama.
For more on Alabama’s Bicentennial, visit Alabama 200.