Because I thoroughly enjoy visiting college campuses, I was excited to visit Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site in Tuskegee, Alabama.
The Tuskegee Institute was started as an expansion of institutions for higher education for African Americans after the Civil War. Booker T. Washington was the first President of the school. He began teaching in a one-room shanty and purchased a plantation to use as a campus the next year. His mission was to teach skilled trades, religion, and moral life. He even started an extension program to take education to the people that were unable to come to campus.
George Washington Carver is another well-known figure that was part of the Tuskegee landscape. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to George Washington Carver National Monument in western Missouri in 2007. He was an extraordinary person as well as scientist, botanist, educator, artist, and inventor. His research into the many uses for the peanut, soybean, and sweet potato is amazing, but his legacy as a person is what I am most in awe of. He is one of those people that seem truly genuine. What a honor it would have been to know this man!
So knowing all this made me very excited about my visit. Turns out the reality left me saddened and a little out of sorts.
Tuskegee Institute has a predominately African American student body. And the town of Tuskegee is also predominately African American. Being in the minority was not something I had a problem with. I was disturbed by the looks that I received from all but four students that I met as I was walking around the campus.
The majority of people gave me a looks that were unwelcoming. They were looks of distrust. Of suspicion. Of wariness.
I hope all this was in my head.
But whether real or imagined, it saddened me to think that there is still such a huge racial divide.