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Tuskegee University

Booker T. Washington became a respected national educational leader, known around the world, especially after the publication in 1901 of his autobiography, Up From Slavery. Washington's leadership of Tuskegee brought him into conflict with black scholar W. E. B. DuBois over the philosophy of black education. In the latter part of the nineteenth century, the vast majority of southern blacks were landless and deprived. Washington believed that the quickest way to improve their standard of living would be to train workers for specific skilled jobs and for which there was demand and instant employment. On the other hand DuBois emphasized "the talented tenth," black students who deserved the challenges of a traditional liberal arts education as well as the rewards such an intellectual experience would bring.

Under Washington's leadership Tuskegee not only stressed the preparation of teachers and the development of trade education, but the school began an extensive outreach program designed to educate black farmers on the principles of scientific agriculture. These programs and continuing education presentations were designed to improve agriculture and farm income and were in place long before Tuskegee became part of the official federal land-grant program in 1899. Washington held conferences for farmers on the campus, where the latest agricultural methods were demonstrated. The farmers' wives would also attend class, learning ways to improve the quality of life for their families, and means to supplement the family's farm income.

To reach the most disadvantaged farmers, who were often intimidated by a college campus and not able to afford the trip to Tuskegee, Washington developed an outreach program sending his agricultural faculty into surrounding counties in a wagon that was equipped with all the latest in farm tools and equipment. Funded by New York philanthropist Morris K. Jesup, the wagon became known as the "Jesup Agricultural Wagon." In 1906 Thomas Monroe Campbell was appointed the first black demonstration agent, and under his direction the Jesup Wagon was simplified and its teaching capability enhanced. The program made outstanding contributions to improving agriculture in Alabama and was one reason why the income of the state's black farmers increased.

In 1896 President Washington recruited George Washington Carver to head Tuskegee's new Department of Agriculture, and the next year the Alabama legislature established and funded an experiment station and agricultural school as part of the Tuskegee facility. Dr. Carver became the first director. It was here and in his laboratory that Carver conducted his research and experiments on typical Southern plants, especially peanuts and sweet potatoes. As the years passed Carver became famous as a scientist and a symbol of black achievement. Carver's experiments are the subject of The George Washington Carver Museum on the Tuskegee campus.

In 1904 Monroe Nathan Work came to Tuskegee to teach and to establish the Department of Records and Research, which was to accumulate and analyze statistics and records of black Americans. As part of this research, Work produced the periodic Lynching Reports that included information on all lynchings, regardless of the race of the victim; eleven editions of The Negro Yearbook; and, in 1928, the important Bibliography of the Negro in Africa and America.