Tuskegee Only University Campus in Country to be Named National Historic Site


Tuskegee University was founded on July 4, 1881, as the Tuskegee Normal School for Colored Teachers (later called the Tuskegee Institute). The school first held classes in a one-room building, but later relocated to a 100-acre abandoned plantation, which “became the nucleus of the present 5,000 acre site,” according to Tuskegee University.

The Tuskegee Institute was approved as a National Historic Site in 1974. It is the only university campus in the country with a National Historic Site designation by the National Park Service (NPS).

Brief history of the Tuskegee Institute

In 1880, former Confederate Col. W.F. Foster sought a position in the Alabama Senate and needed Macon County’s African-American vote to help him secure the election. Foster approached Lewis Adams, a former slave and successful tradesman, to assist him in gaining their support.

In return for the African-American vote, Adams requested that the “Alabama Legislature pass a bill to establish a Normal School for colored teachers at Tuskegee,” said the NPS. Following his election to the Senate, Foster and his colleague in the Alabama House of Representatives, Arthur Brooks, pushed the Legislature to approve the bill, which authorized an appropriation of $2,000 for the teachers’ salaries.

A board of commissioners, including Adams, was formed to organize the school. “The initial space for the school was provided by Butler Chapel AME Zion Church, not far from the present site” before it was moved to the site of a former plantation, said Tuskegee University.

Utilizing his contacts, board commissioner George W. Campbell contacted the Hampton Institute, a Virginia school for African-Americans, to request a teacher for the new Alabama institute. Booker T. Washington was named principal of the school in 1881.