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  • Nicholas J. Martino

Spotlight: The Tuskegee Institute and W.E.B. Dubois

Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash

The Tuskegee Normal School or Tuskegee Institute provided vocational and practical education to African Americans at the turn of the century. Booker T. Washington, regarded as the founder, wanted African Americans to earn the respect of white society, whereas his contemporary of the time, W.E.B. Dubois wanted justice.

Dubois wrote,“The South believed an educated Negro to be a dangerous Negro. And the South was not wholly wrong; for education among all kinds of men always has had, and always will have, an element of danger and revolution, of dissatisfaction and discontent. Nevertheless, men strive to know" in The Souls of Black Folk.

The Tuskegee Institute did not have a bad vision, but like many innovative schools today, it was incomplete. Scholars suggest that to earn the funding of the elite businessmen like J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller, Washington bent to the status quo. If Washington and Dubois would have collaborated they may have cracked the code we are just now cracking; the key to great education is individualization. Today, we are aware that we need to allow for student-voice and to develop agency and encourage student-driven learning. This would have resulted in students interested in carpentry studying carpentry and students interested in justice studying politics.

Our current system is capable of this type of individualization, but large institutional change takes time. The time is now to start working against the status quo to provide individualized education.

Let's work together to dream up what's next for your school or our education system.

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