“Before going to Tuskegee I had expected to find there a building and all the necessary apparatus ready for me to begin teaching. To my disappointment, I found nothing of the kind. I did find, though, that which no costly building and apparatus can supply, -hundreds of hungry, earnest souls who wanted to secure knowledge.” -Booker T. Washington, “Up From Slavery,” (1901)
Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson
To be sure, a surplus of resources-material, monetary, human or property (land)-are necessary for the building of a great institution of higher education. Nevertheless, all of these resources would be wasted if there were not students who are “hungry,” “earnest” and desire “knowledge.” It is roundly true that Mr. Washington’s “Tuskegee Machine” was one of the wealthiest institutions in the nation during the late 19th and early 20th century (and beyond), yet it was equally true that the real strength of the institution was its people-namely the many students and subsequent graduates of Tuskegee (Institute) University who have gone forth as the ‘sons and daughters of Booker and Mother Tuskegee’. For this collective body of students-past, present and future-are the living “building” and “apparatus” of Tuskegee University and the spring from which all of its resources have and must continue to flow. And these students not only represent the strongest indicator of its wealth but these students represent where Tuskegee University’s resources will continue to be invested.
Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University