Located at 1212 West Montgomery Road in Tuskegee, Alabama, the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site is situated on the campus of Tuskegee University. It came under the auspices of the National Park Service in 1974. Its mission is to preserve the vibrant and rich legacy of the historically Black institution of higher learning, Tuskegee Institute.
The Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site includes The Oaks, home of founder and first university president, Booker T. Washington, and the laboratory of inventor extraordinaire, George Washington Carver. The laboratory was converted into a museum in 1941.
Founded as the “Normal School for Colored Teachers” on July 4, 1881, its first class of thirty students was comprised primarily of children whose parents had been enslaved. The school was modeled after Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia, the alma mater of Washington. Formerly enslaved, he worked diligently as both a student, then an educator at Hampton. These positions further prepared him to serve as the principal at his new school.
It began with no monies for buildings, land or equipment but it had $2,000 for salaries for teachers. The following year, the school was able to move on the former plantation, the Bowen Estate due to a personal loan of $250 from J.F.B. Marshall, the treasurer of Hampton Institute. This loan was half of the amount Washington needed for the down payment to purchase the 100 acres of abandoned land.
Over the next century, the mission of the school has expanded from being centered upon vocational training to becoming a degree-granting institution that has become known as Tuskegee University since 1985. As such, its name has changed several times since its founding as the Normal School for Colored Teachers. These changes, according to the National Park Service website, include it being known as “Tuskegee State Normal School (1881–1887), Tuskegee Normal School (1887–1891), Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (1891–1937), Tuskegee Institute (1937–1985), and Tuskegee University (1985 to the present). ‘Tuskegee’ represents both the historic Tuskegee Institute and the current Tuskegee University.”
The buildings of Tuskegee Institute, including administration, and the fifty-acre Historic Campus District comprise this site. The District included many of the structures of the original campus, all of which are owned and still used by Tuskegee University.
Approximately thirty-thousand guests visit the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site, which became a member of the African American Civil Rights Network in 2019. The following is sourced from the NPS website detailing pertinent information about features of this national historic site at Tuskegee:
- The George Washington Carver Museum
Exhibits, interpretive programs, and a book sales area are available to the public.
- “The Oaks” – Home of Booker T. Washington
Free Ranger-guided tours of “The Oaks”, are available Tuesday through Saturday at 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Due to preservation needs of the home and in order to provide the best visitor experience, tours are limited to 25 visitors maximum. Tours begin at the George W. Carver Museum on the campus of Tuskegee University.
If you have physical limitations, call a Ranger at 334.727.3200 and a Ranger will meet you at the Oaks.
There is no charge to visit the Oaks.
To schedule tours for groups of 15 or more, call a Park Ranger at 334.727.3200 or email the site.
- Historic Campus
The Tuskegee University campus has been designated as a Historic District. The tour includes buildings that were built by Tuskegee Institute students and designed by Robert R. Taylor, the first African American graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A map of the District and limited campus tours are available from the Carver Museum.
The George Washington Carver Museum is wheelchair accessible. Ground floor access is available from the parking deck. Upper level access is available via ramps.
The Oaks is wheelchair accessible to the first floor only via chair lift.
- Annual George Washington Carver Arts and Crafts Festival
The George Washington Carver Arts and Crafts Festival was created in recognition of Dr. Carver’s first love, art. This is a day-long festival that encourages artistic expression by means of music, dance, paintings, sculpture, crafts, vendors and other family-oriented activities.