Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site, Alabama recognizes the national importance of the Tuskegee Institute, founded in 1881 primarily to train black teachers who would raise the standard of living for southern African Americans through education and innovation. Tuskegee was quickly built from a classroom in a borrowed church into a first-rate university and center of invention by great men like Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver, and this historic site honors their contributions and protects The Oaks, a house built in 1906 for Booker T. Washington by Tuskegee students.
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Brings history to life
ILNP Park Review
Our Weather Clear and 70 degrees
Our Visit I visited Tuskegee Institute NHS while on a trip to Montgomery, Alabama in March
“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.” -Booker T. Washington
Overall Impression First, Tuskegee is a beautiful town, and the brick buildings of the university and tree-lined streets make this a great place for a drive. The areas managed by the National Park Service, including The Oaks and the George Washington Carver Museum, are only a small sliver of the thriving campus, but they add powerful context to this historic area which was instrumental in creating educational opportunities for African Americans in the South after the Civil War.
Visiting Visiting this site is easy for anyone driving through eastern Alabama as it’s only minutes away from Interstate 85 which connects Montgomery, AL and Atlanta, GA. The George Washington Carver Museum was closed for renovation when I visited, so my experience was limited to The Oaks, Booker T. Washington’s house adjacent to the university. A tour of The Oaks takes about 45 minutes, but tours only occur at certain times each day, so check the NPS website for specific schedules. The George Washington Carver Museum is small, so 2 hours is really sufficient time to see both locations and drive through the university. Adding a third hour will allow you to visit nearby Moton Airfield, where the famous Tuskegee Airmen were trained during WWII and home to the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site.
Most visitors will want to start at the George Washington Carver Museum which also serves as the park’s visitor center. After browsing the exhibits, take the time to visit The Oaks for one of the tours of this early 20th century mansion built by Tuskegee students for their President and head teacher, Booker T. Washington. My tour was led by Elijah, a third-year student at Tuskegee who was very friendly and extremely knowledgeable of the home’s history. The pace of the tour and depth of information was perfect, and he shared many unique stories about the time it served as Washington’s home.
Suggestions First, drive slow! This is an active campus, and the road connecting The Oaks and the George Washington Carver Museum runs across many busy pedestrian crossings in the middle of campus. Also, the roads in downtown Tuskegee can be confusing, and while there were signs to the NHS, not all intersections were well marked, including a T where I had to randomly pick right or left (I chose poorly). Following my phone didn’t help much either. It got me to the university but then gave up. I finally found a main road and just started driving and happened to see an NPS sign that led me to The Oaks parking lot. I recommend printing a paper map of the area before going.
When visiting The Oaks, remember it was not built with disabilities in mind. The tour includes many stairs, though it would be possible to see at least the first floor after negotiating the few stairs of the front porch. The Oaks is also very dark inside. Your phone camera will probably give you some respectable photos, but a DSLR with a wide aperture lens will do better.
Nearby Towns Tuskegee, Montgomery (AL)
Other Nearby Attractions Tuskegee Airmen NHS, Selma to Montgomery NHT, Horseshoe Bend NMP
Official NPS Website Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site
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