“[Dear Mr. Douglass:] According to promise I have delivered your message to Mr. A.C. Bradford in Montgomery to the effect that you would speak there on the night of the 26th of May, and not on the 25th, leaving here after our Commencement exercises in time to reach Montgomery for the lecture there. This arrangement I find can be made to work, and for this arrangement I have said to Mr. Bradford would be final. For you to speak in Montgomery before coming here, would defeat one of the main objects which I have in view in having you at Tuskegee, and I hope you will not consider for a moment any proposition to appear at any meeting in Alabama before coming to Tuskegee. I shall go ahead with our arrangements with the understanding above stated. We shall look for you here on the 24th. Yours truly, B.T.W.” -Booker T. Washington, “April 29th 1892”
Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson
Herein lies one of the single most important communiqués in the annals of world and American history. One of the most important figures in world history, Frederick Douglass, receives a letter from one of the most looming personages in the 19th, 20th or any American century-the founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University). Mr. Douglass, who would die three years later in 1895, the same year of Booker T. Washington’s “Atlanta Exposition Address,” also has correspondence directed to the young leader of Tuskegee. All the same, the current communication involves Mr. Washington seeking to ensure that Tuskegee’s thunder was not usurped by a competitor in Montgomery, Alabama, who was attempting to secure Douglass’ services prior to his speech in Tuskegee. Mr. Washington responded quietly and quickly to rebuff this attempt. For Mr. Douglass was not merely being brought to Tuskegee for appearances’ sake, but to genuinely help advance and develop the institution with both his presence and-no doubt-his ties in Washington, D.C. and Maryland, where he would ultimately spend the remainder of his life. Apparently, some organization in Montgomery sought to secure Mr. Douglass’ presence when it learned of his pending engagement at the institution. Tuskegee was preeminent amongst similarly situated institutions at the time of Douglass’ appearance on campus. As a steward of the Tuskegee Institute (University) brand and reputation, Mr. Washington was particularly careful that the words and works of Tuskegee and its principal and president would go to the renown of Mother Tuskegee and not to another.
7th President, Tuskegee University