What’s Up With Tuskegee U.?

By Ronald Court

One would think that Tuskegee University would give Booker T. Washington adequate props. TU was born on the Fourth of July (1881) without land, buildings, staff or even teachers. Yet in just 35 years, TU was the pre-eminent Negro institution of higher learning with a several hundred acre campus, over a hundred buildings and a $40 million (today’s $$) endowment along the way. Thanks to Booker T.
Yet, Tuskegee’s website presents Booker T. simply as one of its leaders.

Tuskegee’s website appears to pay reluctant lip-service to the man who built this educational, agricultural, industrial and entrepreneurial powerhouse for Blacks out of Alabama’s red dirt – literally. Why?

Has its leadership and/or faculty been swayed by WEB DuBois’ century-old misrepresentation of Booker T’s Atlanta Exposition Address as a “compromise”? Has it been intimidated (indoctrinated?) by the resentful dissing of Booker T’s malevolent detractors? Or maybe they just feel that Booker T’s philosophy and values are irrelevant today.

Whatever. Booker T. deserves better, especially from Tuskegee.

Example: Tuskegee’s home page doesn’t even mention Booker T.

Example: Its Celebrating 125 Years page isn’t exactly enthusiastic about Dr. Washington’s legacy. “Political participation is important, where possible, but solid education community-building, creating jobs, on-the-job training, good health and character development are essential in Washington’s view.” What part of that is not TU’s “view” today?

Let me guess. The part where Booker T. put “political participation” behind all those other essentials.

Example: One page each is devoted to Tuskegee’s Presidents. The pages devoted to BTW’s successors carefully list every honor, honorary degree and prestigious membership of its subject. But no mention of the honorary degrees conferred on BTW by Harvard & Dartmouth. No mention that BTW founded the National Negro Business League. And no mention (one is left to infer) that Dr. Booker T. Washington brought George Washington Carver to Tuskegee in 1886. Were it not for Booker T’s prescience and managerial skills in bringing and retaining the tempermental Dr. Carver, the continued fame and fortune Carver attracted for Tuskegee after Booker T. died would likely have gone elsewhere.

There’s more. Stay tuned. What’s your take?

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