John Lukacs suggests the following about the potential of the past coming to bear upon the future: “I saw the future and it was the past.” And Booker T. Washington, founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University offers a similar advisement in his little-known work, The Future of the American Negro published in 1899. Now, the mere assembling of the “relics” of any people group’s history alone is not a sole predictor of its future. For it greatly depends upon what is being assembled as one paraphrased African proverb offers: “The hunter will always be the hero until the lion has his own historian.” And Mr. Washington recommends the assembling of those “relics [in particular], which mark the progress of their civilization” and “achievements” placed “in some durable form.” (Here again, what one consistently reads, one will consistently become.) If one consistently reads a narrative or documentable history of a people characterized by its clear and documentable successes as opposed to failures documented for varying purposes, such histories will serve to shape not only the psyche of a single people group but also the psyche of all people groups who have a special relationship or closeness to this same group. Such is the history of Tuskegee (Institute) University, where reading the narratives of the men and women (including students, supporters, community members, faculty, staff and administrators) provide a documentable, inspiring and motivating “tradition” (past) that can translate into a documentable, inspiring and motivating “trajectory” (future).
Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.