Lewis Adams, a former slave and successful tradesman, was the founding force behind the establishment of a school at Tuskegee. He made a deal to deliver African-American voters in the 1880 election. In return, the Alabama legislature passed a bill to "establish a Normal School for colored teachers at Tuskegee."
Adams insisted on having an African-American principal and Booker T. Washington was hired. In 1881, Washington became the first principal of a newly formed Normal School for Negroes in Tuskegee, Alabama, at the age of 26.
This began a lifelong quest for excellence that oversaw the growth of Tuskegee Institute.
Using his outstanding fundraising capabilities and negotiating skills, Washington purchased an abandoned plantation of 1,000 acres. The plantation became the nucleus of Tuskegee Institute and Tuskegee University's present campus.
The Historic Campus District still retains the original buildings built by the students of the Institute, with bricks made by students in the Institute brickyard.
In 1896, George Washington Carver joined the faculty and revolutionized agricultural development in the South in the early twentieth century. The legacy of these two men, and the history of this great institution of higher education has been preserved to tell the story of men and women, former slaves, who struggled to make their place in our American society.
Washington also brought in Robert Taylor, the first black architect to graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and David A. Williston, one of the first black landscape architects in America, as faculty members.
Washington appointed highly skilled industrial instructors to teach trades. In the late 1930s, the military selected Tuskegee to train African-American pilots because of its commitment to aeronautical training. It had instructors, facilities, and a climate for year-round flying.
In 1965, Tuskegee Institute was designated a national historic landmark in recognition of its contributions and advancements in education. Congress authorized the establishment of Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site in 1974. The National Historic Site includes The Oaks, Booker T. Washington's home, and the Carver Museum
African-American history, early industrial development, civil rights, and education are some of the themes represented at this site.