Tuskegee is a city in Macon County, Alabama. At the 2000 census
the population was 11,846 and
is designated a Micropolitan
Statistical Area. Tuskegee has been an important site in
various stages of African American history.
The name Tuskegee means "Warrior" in the Muskhogean dialect of the Creek language. It was the name of at least two Indian tribes, one living in central Alabama and the other in Tennessee. Tuskegee was the home of the Taskigis, Channuanugee, Chehaws and Tallassee Indian tribes.
Tuskegee was founded and laid out in 1833 by General Thomas Simpson Woodward who fought in the Indian Wars under Andrew Jackson. It was probably named after an Indian tribe, the Taskigis, living in the area. General Woodward built the first home in town. It was partially destroyed by fire and rebuilt by Mr. William Campbell. The first home on the square was built by Mr. James Dent.
The City was incorporated in 1843. A local newspaper, the Tuskegee News, was first published in April, 1865. Many noted men and women of national and international fame attended educational institutions in Tuskegee. The first law school in Alabama was located in Tuskegee. The Baptist College for Women in 1848; the Tuskegee Female College (later moved to Montgomery as Huntingdon College) in 1856; Tuskegee Military Institute for Boys; and Park High School for Boys were among the early schools that flourished before the public schools were established in 1898. Even today Tuskegee ranks fifth from the top of cities in Alabama having the highest percentage of college graduates. Macon County ranks fourth for counties in the state for having highest percentage of college graduates.
It is where, in 1881, Booker T. Washington founded the Tuskegee Normal School for Colored Teachers, which later became Tuskegee Institute and then Tuskegee University, with the mission of educating a newly freed people for self-sufficiency, and was the birthplace of Rosa Louise Parks in 1913. The town was also the site of the now-infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiment, a controversial clinical study conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service from 1932-1972. Today it remains a center for African-American education and became a part of the National Parks System in 1974.
One of the most famous teachers at Tuskegee was George Washington Carver, whose name is synonymous with innovative research into Southern farming method and crops. Tuskegee and Tuskegee Institute were also home to the famed Tuskegee Airmen, the first squadron of African-American pilots in the U.S. Military. The city is the county seat of Macon County, and is known as the home of Tuskegee University "The Pride of the Swift Growing South".
The annual Carver Sweet Potato Festival is held every third Saturday in October in Tuskegee's town square. The festival commemorates the memory of Dr. George Washington Carver and his sweet potato research. Sweet potato growers gather to share cultivation tips, showcase new products, enter their products in competition, and... oh yes, to sell sweet potatoes.
I remember going through Tuskegee years ago on my way to Warner Robins, Georgia. I guess when you are in a hurry, you really do not take the time to see what you are missing. Actually, I had not planned to stop in Tuskegee this trip. My daughter and I were on our way to Horseshoe Bend Military Park to see a reenactment of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. When we pulled off Interstate 85 to turn north, she asked if we had time to go down town. Of course we have time dear!
I am glad we took the time. The downtown city square is like a post card. It is laid out beautifully with the park in the center and colorful buildings surrounding it.
We took a few minutes to check out one of the antique stores in town. We struck up a conversation with one of the employees, Charles. I learned a lot in those few minutes. It seems that Charles is very knowledgeable on Tuskegee History.
Charles said that most people have a mistaken idea that Tuskegee history really did not get started unit around the time of George Washington Carver. But, in reality, Tuskegee started hundreds of years earlier with the Indian settlements.
There is a great deal of history in the area, and I hope to get back soon to discover more of its beauty and learn more from Charles...