From shanty to 5,000-acre campus, university to celebrate 133rd anniversary


TUSKEGEE, Ala. (June 25, 2014) — The Tuskegee community will join together on the Fourth of July to mark America’s independence and the university’s 133 years of existence. 

Booker T. Washington

Lewis Adams
The families of Tuskegee’s two founders, Booker T. Washington and Lewis Adams, will honor their ancestors with two wreath-laying ceremonies. The first ceremony will be at 9 a.m. CST at Washington’s gravesite, located on TU’s campus. There will be remarks from community members as well as greetings and a reading from Washington’s “Up From Slavery” by some of Washington’s great grandchildren. Special guests include: Dr. Brian Johnson, Tuskegee University president, and City of Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford. 

"We are so very happy to honor our beloved founder Booker T. Washington for his many great achievements— the single greatest of which is the founding of Tuskegee Institute on July 4, 1881," Johnson said. 

Afterward the ceremony at the university, there will be a processional through the City of Tuskegee to the gravesite of Lewis Adams at Ashdale Cemetery. Rev. Charles Adams, a grandchild of Lewis Adams will lead a prayer.

Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Iota Omega chapter, sponsored the wreath for Washington’s grave. Felicia Jenkins, program administrator for EPSCoR, and Edna P. Woodson, director of the Upward Bound program, sponsored the wreath for Adams’ grave. 

The ceremonies are free and open to the public. For more information, contact Robin Washington-Banks at: 404-593-6414 or email:

Tuskegee’s founding

In 1880, a bill that included a yearly appropriation of $2,000 was passed by the Alabama State Legislature to establish a school for blacks in Macon County. Lewis Adams, a former slave, and George W. Campbell, a former slave owner, generated this action. On February 12, 1881, Gov. Rufus Willis Cobb signed the bill into law, establishing the Tuskegee Normal School for the training of black teachers.

Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute principal, Samuel Chapman Armstrong, recommended Booker T. Washington as Tuskegee’s principal. When Washington arrived, he found there was no land or buildings for the school. The school opened July 4, 1881, in a shanty loaned by Butler Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church. With money borrowed from Hampton Institute's treasurer, Washington later purchased an abandoned 100-acre plantation on the outskirts of the City of Tuskegee. 

Students built a kiln, made bricks for buildings and sold bricks to raise money. Within a few years, they built a classroom building, a dining hall, a girl’s dormitory and a chapel. By Tuskegee’s 25th anniversary, the school had transformed into a 2,000-acre campus with 83 buildings. Today, the university’s physical facilities include more than 5,000 acres of forestry and a campus on which sits more than 100 major buildings and structures. 

© 2014 Tuskegee University

Back to News Listing