Tuskegee, The Great Oasis

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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.

Our brief time in Tuskegee was marked by stories of day to day experiences that proved the lasting legacy of Booker T. Washington. The stories spoke to the many beautiful complexities and great debates waged in the African American community. Participants shared stories reflecting perceptions of success, work ethic, youth apathy, ‘passing’, class divisions, integration’s effect on community values and prosperity, as well as attitudes toward skin color, complexion, and beauty within the Black community. Tuskegee is now, and always has been a proud oasis blossoming with rigorous inquiry and boundless achievement.

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5 Responses to “Tuskegee, The Great Oasis”

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  • Thanks so much for sharing this history of Tuskegee. It helps to remember what the good old times were all about…….

    Comment from Jan on April 13, 2013 at 5:21 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • Jimmy,
    Lacy and I really miss Tuskegee. Your pictures are awesome. Thanks for bringing Tuskegee home to me in Virginia.

    Comment from Ardeania Ward on October 21, 2008 at 3:24 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • Jimmy this site is awesome. The slidshow is great. You know I will be looking for more pics, because these are beautiful. I am so proud of you and the work you do for Tuskegee Alabama. You’re the best.

    Comment from Linda Parker on April 30, 2008 at 11:19 am - Reply to this Comment
  • Jimmy,

    Once you live in Tuskegee and begin to ask questions, it is amazing how much you are able to uncover.

    I’m impressed with your persistence and openness to transmitting concepts regarding “true facts” about Tuskegee…

    Comment from Michael Evan Johnson on March 20, 2008 at 9:51 am - Reply to this Comment
  • Loving these photos! So much positivity busting through keep on spreading good stories

    Comment from Laurel on February 1, 2008 at 8:14 pm - Reply to this Comment

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