Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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“Mr. J.B. Washington: You have been connected with the office now five or six years, and should know how to perform, at least common duties around the office. If you do not know it is your own fault. I entrusted to you the mailing of the Advertisers which were purchased at quite an outlay, and I find that the whole expenses, and work in connection with this work, are to a large extent, thrown away by reason of the fact that the papers were not properly wrapped. I did not suppose it was necessary to go into each detail and tell you how to wrap these papers. They have been wrapped, I find, with no idea of making the marked article conspicuous, and at least half of the person whom the papers will go will not see the article owing to your carelessness. It seems to me just that a part of the expense connected with purchasing these papers should be charged to your personal account.” – “February 27, 1895,” Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  

It is amazing to continuously read the administrative and management philosophy that Mr. Booker T. Washington demonstrated in his correspondence and writings from 1881-1915-his 34-year long tenure as founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University). For this man’s philosophy was truly without respect for persons and such persons included his very own brother-his younger adopted brother-Mr. James B. Washington.  Washington Baseball Field at Tuskegee University was named after James B. Washington who came to Tuskegee from Hampton Institute in 1890. He is affectionately referred to as the “Father of Athletics at Tuskegee.” Washington, the adopted brother of Booker T. Washington, organized the first Tuskegee baseball team in 1892. In the present communiqué, Mr. Washington’s remonstrations directed towards this employee, his very own brother were premised upon the following: “You have been connected with the office now five or six years, and should know how to perform, at least common duties around the office.” If an employee has been at an institution for less than a year, one year or possibly two, one may readily concede a person’s relative unfamiliarity about the unit they have been given the charge over or have inherited from a predecessor. (The very best leaders do not rely upon such concessions for they immediately assume the charge over their unit and/or organization without regard to their longevity in the post.) All the same, Mr. James B. Washington had now possessed the charge of the unit he was leading for a full “five or six years,” and the expertise required for leading his unit ought to have been either been acquired by diligent acquisition or pursuit, or he might have relinquished his post and simply acknowledged before his employer-his older brother-Booker T. Washington that he did not possess the requisite talent, skillset or ability to do what the institution needed from him in his present capacity. (If it were a matter of lack of institutional support for what he had needed, he might have communicated this as well.) Notwithstanding, it is not an admission of weakness or non-strength to concede that one cannot do what is expected of him or her. Rather, such admission is the surest sign of both professional maturity and vocational integrity, and might possibly lead such an employee to a better position, within the institution or otherwise, more properly aligned to his or her skill sets and capabilities. We know that Mr. James B. Washington ably served alongside his brother Booker, and well after the passing of the university’s first president. Nevertheless, for the post he held in the capacity described above, Mr. James B. Washington’s efforts did not meet with the expectations of his employer-his older brother, the founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University), Booker T. Washington.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.

7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition

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