Tuskegee Institute & The “Civilizing Mission” (1881)

In 1881, Booker T. Washington, the well-known orator, educator, and author, founded the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute for Black American and African students. While his ideas drew criticism from many of his contemporaries, Washington believed that Black Americans should approach civil rights slowly, instead focusing on acquiring valuable skills such as industrial education to gain economic independence. This “industrial education,” which trained students for jobs in agriculture, mechanics, domestic labor, and several trades, encapsulated the notion of the “civilizing mission,” which sought to “uplift” Black Americans after the end of slavery by providing them with practical technical education. Though the goal was to assist them in becoming economically independent, the “civilizing mission” drew criticism for not offering its students upward mobility.


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