African-American Perspectives
The Progress of a People
Segregation and Violence Solving the Race Problem Contributions to the Nation

SESSION 2: The Church as a Factor | Champions of Human Liberty | Industrial Education | Higher Education

Session Topic
Industrial Education
Image: captions follows
Men working in a corner in the electrical division, Tuskegee Inst., Ala. Photographer unknown. Photograph, ca. 1913. LC-USZ62-25655.
The Civil War emancipated the slaves, but it did not prepare them to live as free men. Most were poor, illiterate, and skilled only in agriculture. To meet the immediate needs of these rural African-Americans, training schools were established across the South. One of the most important was Tuskegee Institute, headed by Booker T. Washington, who was appointed principal in 1881.

Students at Tuskegee Institute learned, in Booker T. Washington's words, "to do a common thing in an uncommon manner." The institute taught basic farming, carpentry, brickmaking and bricklaying, print shop, home economics, and other practical subjects, as well as basic secondary school courses. Manual training courses developed at Tuskegee served as models, not just in the United States, but in nations all over the developing world.

Presidents and dignitaries visited Tuskegee. The major philanthropic figures of the day -- such as John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie -- contributed heavily to its operation, confirming, in the words of a 1916 report of the U.S. Bureau of Education, "the partiality of donors in the North for schools of this order."

African-American critics charged that Tuskegee did little more than train its students to comply with the white social order of the South and that Tuskegee graduates, denied access to industrial positions, became domestic workers and manual laborers. However, Tuskegee Institute founder Booker T. Washington insisted that progress was being made.

Pamphlet Excerpt
from "Nineteenth Annual Report of the Principal of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute" by Booker T. Washington

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Audio Transcription:

The chief value of industrial education is to give to the students habits of industry, thrift, economy and an idea of the dignity of labor. But in addition to this, in the present economic condition of the colored people, it is most important that a very large proportion of those trained in such institutions as this, actually spend their time at industrial occupations. Let us value the work of Tuskegee by this test...Our students actually cultivate every day, seven hundred acres of land, while studying agriculture. The students studying dairying, actually milk and care for seventy-five milch cows daily...and so I could go on and give not theory, nor hearsay, but actual facts, gleaned from all the departments of the school.

SESSIONS: Segregation and Violence | Solving the Race Problem | Contributions to the Nation

The Progress of a People

African-American Perspectives