Abstract

Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, an African-American school of agriculture, teacher training and vocational trades in Tuskegee, Alabama, was at one point the world's most respected school of its kind. This superior reputation was the work of Booker T. Washington, a man who rose up from slavery to help establish the school in 1881 and served as its principal until he died in 1915. Known as "The Founder," Washington used the support of rich and influential whites to develop a major center of practical education; over time, he also created a massive web of patronage and power which he used to control African-American politics. His name eventually became synonymous with African-American leadership and education. When he suddenly died in November of 1915, many people wondered if the work that had been done at Tuskegee would now disappear forever. It was with heavy hearts that the decision to hire Major Robert Russa Moton from Hampton Institute was made, for few thought that anyone could continue Washington's work. They were right. During his twenty-year tenure at Tuskegee, Moton expanded the school into a liberal arts university with impressive facilities, faculty, and curriculum. This drew criticism from some powerful white citizens who thought that Moton was abandoning Washington's traditions and beliefs. Moton's silencing of these critics, who could have used their influence to veto his educational improvements, was the result of an ingenious public relations campaign. Through the glorification of Washington's image that characterized his speeches and writings throughout the 19l0s and 1920s, he quietly took the school's appearance and purpose in a new direction while publicly convincing people that he was continuing the Founder's traditions. While president of Tuskegee, Moton also improved the school through student activities, new facilities, and race empowerment, which grew out of his battle over African-American employment at a local hospital. These actions, although not directly related to the public relations maneuvers, are an additional sign of his remarkable work at Tuskegee.

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