About Us

Tuskegee University is an independent and state-related institution of higher education.  Its programs serve a student body that is coeducational as well as racially, ethnically and religiously diverse.


Educating Others ...

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. This action was generated by two men - Lewis Adams, a former slave, and George W. Campbell, a former slave owner. On February 12, 1881, Governor Rufus Willis Cobb signed the bill into law, establishing the Tuskegee Normal School for the training of Black teachers.

Armstrong was invited to recommend a White teacher as principal of the school. Instead, he suggested Washington, who was accepted. When Washington arrived at Tuskegee, he found that no land or buildings had been acquired for the projected school, nor was there any money for these purposes since the appropriation was for salaries only. Undaunted, Washington began selling the idea of the school, recruiting students and seeking support of local Whites.

The school opened July 4, 1881, in a shanty loaned by a Black church, Butler A.M.E. Zion. With money borrowed from Hampton Institute's treasurer, Washington purchased an abandoned 100-acre plantation on the outskirts 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 1888, the 540-acre school had an enrollment of more than 400 and offered training in such skilled trades as carpentry, cabinetmaking, printing, shoemaking and tinsmithing. Boys also studied farming and dairying, while girls learned such domestic skills as cooking and sewing.

Through their own labor, students supplied a large part of the needs of the school. In the academic departments, Washington insisted that efforts be made to relate the subject matter to the actual experiences of the students. Strong emphasis was placed on personal hygiene, manners and character building.

Students followed a rigid schedule of study and work, arising at five in the morning and retiring at nine-thirty at night. Although Tuskegee was non-denominational, all students were required to attend chapel daily and a series of religious services on Sunday. Washington himself usually spoke to the students on Sunday evening.

Olivia Davidson, a graduate of Hampton and Framingham State Normal School in Massachusetts, became teacher and assistant principal at Tuskegee in 1881. In 1885, Washington's older brother John, also a Hampton graduate, came to Tuskegee to direct the vocational training program.

Other notable additions to the staff were acclaimed scientist Dr. George Washington Carver, who became director of the agriculture program in 1896; Emmett J. Scott, who became Washington 's private secretary in 1897; and Monroe Nathan Work, who became head of the Records and Research Department in 1908.