Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church built in 1914.
The Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church was formed in 1870 in a small community near Tuskegee University known today as Notasulga, Alabama. By 1914 the congregation had bought 4 acres of land and completed building a church and the Shiloh-Rosenwald School. The school was completed with financial assistance from the Rosenwald Fund. Endowed by Julius Rosenwald CEO and co-owner of Sears Roebuck & Co., the Rosenwald Fund, was the result of a historic partnership between Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington. With design and engineering help from faculty at Tuskegee Institute, the fund paid for the construction of over 5,000 school facilities from Maryland to Texas. Shiloh’s Rosenwald School was one of six constructed during the inaugural phase of the project. It’s estimated that, at one time, the schools were capable of accommodating the needs of 1/3 of all African American school children in the South. Memories of these schools are colored with a strong sense of pride. In areas with little or no resources and zero state spending, they provided a formidable education to the children who attended.
No trip to Alabama would be complete without a stop in Tuskegee, Alabama. Evolving from the Negro Normal School in Tuskegee to Tuskegee Institute to Tuskegee University, the school and namesake community have had an intertwining history of great achievement and intellectual prosperity. Under the leadership of Booker T. Washington, Tuskegee rose to national prominence. StoryCorps Griot participant Jimmy Johnson described the Tuskegee community and legacy by comparing Booker T. Washington to the other great luminary of his era, W.E.B. DuBois. DuBois was committed to fighting for total equality, including the right to vote, in the courts. DuBois argued the legal system was the best path. Washington, on the other hand rationalized that if African Americans could achieve intellectual and economic success through ownership and prosperity in business, science, and the trades, equality could not be denied; you cannot be denied what you have achieved yourself. Johnson explains that Washington was saying: succeed intellectually and financially and they will beg you for your vote. Communities like Tuskegee and Mound Bayou, Mississippi are bold examples. It could be argued that history proved that both ideologies were part and parcel of the same path.
Today, on the third Monday of January, we take a holiday to observe the life and legacy of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. It is a fitting coincidence that today StoryCorps Griot arrives at Tuskegee University from Selma, Alabama; we travel from the site of one of the fiercest battles in the long struggle for the right to be counted as equal citizens to an institution established to develop responsible citizens who would make remarkable contributions to American life.
The Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama was the site of one of the most significant protests in American history. The incident, known as “Bloody Sunday” emblazoned the Edmund Pettus Bridge as an indelible image of violent American oppression. Bloody Sunday sparked national attention on racial discrimination in voting, eventually leading to the passage of the National Voting Rights Act of 1965.