Date of Degree

5-2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Urban Education

Advisor

Stephen Brier

Committee Members

Stephen Brier

Ruth Wilson Gilmore

Ofelia Garcia

Barbara J. Fields

Subject Categories

African American Studies | Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education | Social History

Keywords

Tuskegee, Student Activism, Booker T. Washington, Black Studies, Black Power

Abstract

“The Tuskegee Revolt: Student Activism, Black Power, and the Legacy of Booker T. Washington” is a historical study of a student movement that challenged prevailing educational and political ideas in the nation’s most ideologically important historically black university. The late 1960s student movement at Tuskegee Institute played a significant off-campus role in shaping local, regional, and national social movements and politics. In the process, these Tuskegee students turned their attention back on-campus, and attempted to radically revise their school’s educational framework. Founded by Booker T. Washington in 1881, Tuskegee Institute represents the origin of a particular (and recurring) political-educational-paradigm for black people: deferring aspirations for collective political and social transformation and instead emphasizing individual and personal change. Washington’s legacy has been debated exhaustively, but thus far has been represented as a debate between Washington and external figures (principally W.E.B. Du Bois). The student movement at Tuskegee Institute — which demonstrates a historic pattern of internal debate, dissent, and protest — has never been the subject of scholarly investigation. From the school’s founding in the late 19th century, Tuskegee students consistently questioned and at times openly challenged various aspects of Washington’s paradigm. The most significant student protests at the school erupted in the late 1960s, and represent one of the most dynamic student movements in the South in these years. That movement provides a new vantage point from which to consider the legacy of Booker T. Washington. This study tells Tuskegee Institute’s history from the student perspective, explains the origins and dynamics of the 1960s movement, and attempts to understand the shifting political and educational ideas on the Tuskegee Institute campus in a historic moment of social conflict and change. For the first time, students at the institution Washington founded will have their say in the debate about his — and their school’s — legacy.

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