Before the Civil War, Macon County, Alabama, was a flourishing community based upon cotton agriculture. The county seat of Tuskegee was a cultural and educational center with several schools. In the Reconstruction period, Lewis Adams, a leader in the black community, was approached by two white politicians who asked his help in securing the black vote for them in the next election. Adams agreed but only if the two would support establishing a college for African Americans in Tuskegee. The deal was struck, and the two men were elected to the legislature. George W. Campbell, a former slave owner, worked closely with Adams to bring the college to Tuskegee. In 1881, the legislature approved an act establishing the Tuskegee State Normal School to educate teachers. Adams and two other men were appointed commissioners, and with Campbell's help they recruited a young Virginia educator, Booker T. Washington,
who came as principal to Tuskegee from Hampton Institute. Washington opened the school on July 4, 1881. Through the years the other schools once located in Tuskegee closed or moved to other localities, but the educational institution that became Tuskegee University continues to be a center of learning and service for east Alabama as well as the state of Alabama, the South, and the world.