Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 40 miles, approximately 1 hour each way. Walking up to 1 mile and standing at field trip sites; stairs to Oaks house second floor. Walking outside in between sites on field trips.
We will board a motorcoach and ride to the town of Tuskegee with our Group Leader. We’ll stop at the Tuskegee History Center, which documents the accomplishments and historical events of three distinct cultures and peoples — Native American, European American, and African American — in Tuskegee, Macon County, and Alabama. We’ll ride on to Tuskegee University, founded in 1881, with Dr. Booker T. Washington as the first teacher when it was a one-room school housed in Butler Chapel AME Zion Church. With an appropriation of $2,000 by the state, it soon moved to the site of a former plantation and was known as the Normal School for Colored Teachers. Dr. Washington remained the President and driving force until his death in 1915, recruiting the best and brightest faculty he could find including George Washington Carver, who arrived in 1896 to head the Agriculture Department. We’ll visit two sites that are part of the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site: the George Washington Carver Museum and The Oaks, Dr. Washington’s home. National Park Service staff will lead our explorations at the sites. While Carver’s innovations in agriculture, especially with peanuts, expanded Tuskegee’s standing throughout the country, he invented commercial by-products from many vegetables, always with an eye towards helping poor people, especially those in the black community. He sent teachers from the school to help local farmers learn modern techniques. The museum traces Carver’s growth and development from childhood slave days through his academic career with exhibits and artifacts from his life. The Oaks was built for Dr. Washington in 1899. Today, it is furnished in period antiques and reproductions, with low-wattage light bulbs such as would have been available at the time. The paint colors were developed by George Washington Carver. There are some original pieces in Dr. Washington’s office on the second floor, accessed by stairs only.
In the Tuskegee University Tompkins Hall cafeteria, we’ll have a buffet lunch with many hot and cold items plus beverage choices of soft drinks and water included.
Next, we’ll ride to the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site and begin our field trip with an audio-visual presentation. We’ll then have independent time for a self-directed exploration to learn about the role of the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II and how their role in the war changed race relations in the United States. Due to prevailing attitudes, there had been only limited opportunities for African Americans to be part of the U.S. military forces, and in 1941, African Americans could not become pilots. Some believed they did not have the intellect, aptitude, or skills. Civil rights groups, with support from President Roosevelt, exerted tremendous pressure to change these realities and military leaders eventually agreed to conduct a small-scale experiment based at Tuskegee thanks to the Institute’s decision to offer aeronautical training. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first to complete their training and enter the Army Air Corps, followed by nearly 1,000 African American aviators. There were also bombardiers, control tower operators, medical personnel, meteorologists, navigators, radio operators, and many more. Their success and heroic service led to great strides when President Truman signed his executive order desegregating the military in 1948. We will return to Montgomery in the late afternoon.
Groups will dine in different local restaurants within walking distance of the hotel.