Tuskegee, Alabama

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"Tuskegee" redirects here. For other uses, see Tuskegee (disambiguation).
The Macon County Courthouse in Tuskegee was added to the National Register of Historic Places on November 17, 1987
The Macon County Courthouse in Tuskegee was added to the National Register of Historic Places on November 17, 1987
Nickname(s): Thou Pride of the Swift Growing South
Location in Macon County and the state of Alabama
Location in Macon County and the state of Alabama
Tuskegee is located in USA
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 32°25′53″N 85°42′24″W / 32.43139°N 85.70667°W / 32.43139; -85.70667
Country United States
State Alabama
County Macon
 • Mayor Johnny Ford
 • Total 15.7 sq mi (40.7 km2)
 • Land 15.5 sq mi (40.1 km2)
 • Water 0.2 sq mi (0.6 km2)
Elevation 463 ft (141 m)
Population (2005)
 • Total 11,590
Time zone CST (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP codes 36083, 36087, 36088
Area code(s) 334
FIPS code 01-77304
GNIS feature ID 0128211
Website http://www.tuskegeealabama.gov/

Tuskegee (/tʌsˈkɡ/[1]) is a city in Macon County, Alabama, United States. At the 2000 census the population was 11,846.

Tuskegee has been an important site in African-American history and highly influential in United States history since the 19th century. Before the American Civil War, the area was largely used as a cotton plantation, dependent on African-American slave labor. After the war, many freedmen continued to work on plantations in the rural area, which was devoted to agriculture. In 1881 the Tuskegee Normal School (now Tuskegee University, a historically black college) was founded and its director, Booker T. Washington developed a national reputation and philanthropic network to support education of freedmen and their children.

In 1923, the Tuskegee Veterans Administration Medical Center was established here, initially for the estimated 300,000 African-American veterans of World War I in the South, when public facilities were racially segregated. Twenty-seven buildings were constructed on the 464-acre campus.[2]

The city was the subject of a notable civil rights case, Gomillion v. Lightfoot (1960), in which the United States Supreme Court ruled that the state legislature had violated the Fifteenth Amendment in 1957 by redefining the city boundaries as a 28-sided figure that excluded nearly all black voters and residents, and none of the white voters or residents.[3] The city's boundaries were restored in 1961 after the ruling.


The area was settled by European Americans in the 1830s after the Creek Native American tribes had been removed to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River. Pioneer planters brought or purchased African-American slaves to develop the rich soil for cotton plantations, as short-staple cotton was the chief commodity crop through the 19th century. Invention of the cotton gin at the end of the 18th century meant that this type of cotton could be processed profitably and it was adaptable to the upland areas. Designated as the county seat of rural Macon County, Tuskegee developed as its only city. Other communities are unincorporated.

In 1881, the young Booker T. Washington was hired to develop the Tuskegee Normal School for Colored Teachers on the grounds of a former plantation. It was founded to train teachers for the segregated school system and freedmen for self-sufficiency. Washington established a work-study program by which students practiced skills and trades. Over the decades, the programs were expanded. This was later named the Tuskegee Institute. Graduate courses were added and it became Tuskegee University. Washington was known for his emphasis on education and self-improvement. The institute became known for stressing a practical education with work experience by students, to prepare them for the work available in the small towns and rural areas to which most would return.[4] Teaching was a highly respected calling, as education was a major goal among the freedmen and their children. Washington believed that African Americans would achieve acceptance by southern whites when they had raised themselves.[5]

Washington led the school for decades, building a wide national network of white industrialist donors among some of the major philanthropists of the era, including George Eastman. At the same time, Washington secretly provided funding to the NAACP for its legal defense of some highly visible civil rights cases, including supporting challenges to southern states' discriminatory constitutions and practices that disenfranchised African Americans.[6] Through the 1920s and 1930s, Washington worked with Julius Rosenwald and architects at the college to develop models for rural schools, to be used with Rosenwald's matching funds to gain construction of more rural schools for black children in the South.

Beginning in 1932, the school was the site of the now-infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiment (1932–1972), started to test treatments of the disease. With funding cut by the Great Depression, the Institute staff cut back on medications to treat the disease and studied the effects of untreated syphilis on patients and their partners. In addition, participants were not informed that treatment was available for their disease after antibiotics had been developed.

One of the most famous teachers at Tuskegee was George Washington Carver, whose name is synonymous with innovative research into Southern farming methods and the development of hundreds of commercial products derived from regional crops, including peanuts and sweet potatoes.

During World War II, Tuskegee and Tuskegee Institute were also home to the famed Tuskegee Airmen. This was the first squadron of African-American pilots trained in the U.S. Military for service in that war.

The university in the 21st century is a center of excellence for African-American education. The heart of the university has been designated as a National Historic District and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

The Tuskegee VA Medical Center was opened in 1923, authorized by Congress. A total of 27 buildings were constructed on the 464-acre campus, which provided housing and a hospital to serve the needs of more than 300,000 African-American veterans in the South from World War I.[2] It attracted doctors from top schools, such as Dr. Toussaint Tourgee Tildon, a graduate of Harvard Medical School. He was one of the first six African-American doctors to work at the hospital; as director of the complex for 12 years (1946–1958), he achieved accreditation for a medical residency program at the hospital. He also worked to ensure accessibility for graduates to good medical positions in the federal government.[7] By 1975, the hospital complex had

Voting rights challenge[edit]

Following passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, activists had made progress in registering black voters in the city. African Americans in Tuskegee and other Alabama cities had been largely disenfranchised after passage of a new state constitution in 1901, which had requirements that were discriminatory in practice, such as poll tax and literacy tests.

In 1957 the 400 registered black voters nearly equaled white voters; a total of 1000 voters were registered. But African Americans in the city outnumbered whites on a four-to-one basis; among them were many highly educated, professional African Americans working at Tuskegee and the VA hospital. That year, without debate and against the protests of many African Americans, the state legislature redefined the boundaries of the city; it enacted Local Law 140, creating an irregular, 28-sided city boundary that excluded all black registered voters but a few; those excluded included the entire professional staffs of the Institute and the hospital. No white voters were excluded by the change.[3]

The law was intended to guarantee that minority whites could retain control of the city even if more blacks succeeded in the arduous process of registering to vote. Some 3,000 African-American residents protested passage of the law at a church in Tuskegee; they also began an economic boycott of white businesses in the city.[8]

African Americans also organized to challenge the law in court, in a case supported by the NAACP. The law was initially upheld by the US District Court and affirmed by the Appeals Court based in New Orleans. Known as Gomillion v. Lightfoot, it was decided by the US Supreme Court in 1960, with the ruling implemented in 1961.[8] The court ruled that the gerrymandering of city boundaries violated the Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution and that "states were not insulated from federal judicial review when they jeopardized federally protected rights."[3] The exclusionary gerrymandering was overturned and the city restored to its previous boundaries.

This case was cited in the later Baker v. Carr (1964), in which the Supreme Court ruled that Tennessee's malapportionment of election districts violated civil rights. It ruled that representation in both houses of all state legislatures had to be based on population, under "one-man, one-vote, and that such districts had to be regularly updated to reflect population changes.


In the 21st century, Tuskegee has a council-manager government led by a four-member city council, a mayor, and an appointed city manager.

The city council acts as a legislative body of the city, passing laws and regulations and appointing citizens to the city's various boards. Each member of the city council is elected for a four-year term from one of three geographic single-member districts. Tuskegee has one city council member who is elected at-large to a four-year term and serves as mayor-pro tem. The duties of the mayor are to promote the city, communicate with residents, and preside over City Council meetings. As such, the position of mayor in Tuskegee is primarily ceremonial.


Tuskegee is located at 32°25′53″N 85°42′24″W / 32.43139°N 85.70667°W / 32.43139; -85.70667 (32.431506, −85.706781).[9]

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 15.7 square miles (41 km2). 15.5 square miles (40 km2) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.52 km2) of it (1.53%) is water.


Downtown Tuskegee tells the history of Tuskegee/Macon County from the time of incorporation to the present. It also has a site serving as the Tuskegee Visitor Center. For more information about visiting Tuskegee, stop by the Tuskegee Human & Civil Rights Multicultural Center.

Some Tuskegee area attractions:

  • Tuskegee University/Tuskegee Institute Historic District [1]
  • Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site (including the Oaks and GWC Museum) [2]
  • Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site @ Historic Moton Field [3]
  • City of Tuskegee Historic District
  • The Tuskegee Human & Civil Rights Multicultural Center
  • Butler Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church,[10] site of protests against 1957 state gerrymandering of the city
  • Tuskegee Veterans Administration Medical Center [11]
  • The Tuskegee Repertory Theatre/Jessie Clinton Arts Center [4]
  • Tuskegee City Lake
  • Tuskegee National Forest [5]
  • Kirks Old Farm Museum
  • Victoryland Greyhound Park[6]


The table at right shows the effects of the state passing a law in 1957 to redefine the city of Tuskegee in a way that excluded nearly all black residents, dramatically reducing the population by 1960. The city and other officials were sued under Gomillion v. Lightfoot (1960); the US Supreme Court ruled against the state's action.[3] The city boundaries were reinstituted, as reflected by the dramatic "increase" of population in the city recorded in 1970. Because of lack of economic opportunities in the largely rural area, both the city and rural county have lost population since the late 20th century.

Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 2,370
1890 1,803 −23.9%
1900 2,170 20.4%
1910 2,803 29.2%
1920 2,475 −11.7%
1930 3,314 33.9%
1940 3,937 18.8%
1950 6,712 70.5%
1960 1,750 −73.9%
1970 11,028 530.2%
1980 13,327 20.8%
1990 12,257 −8.0%
2000 11,846 −3.4%
2010 9,865 −16.7%
Est. 2014 8,993 −8.8%
U.S. Decennial Census[12]
2013 Estimate[13]

As of the census[14] of 2000, there were 11,846 people, 4,169 households, and 2,326 families residing in the city. The population density was 765.7 people per square mile (295.7/km²). There were 5,101 housing units at an average density of 329.7 per square mile (127.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 95.48% Black or African American, 2.59% White, 0.19% Native American, 0.69% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.17% from other races, and 0.88% from two or more races. 0.68% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 4,169 households out of which 27.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 22.6% were married couples living together, 29.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 44.2% were non-families. 37.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.30 and the average family size was 3.06.

In the city the population was spread out with 22.6% under the age of 18, 25.4% from 18 to 24, 19.9% from 25 to 44, 17.2% from 45 to 64, and 14.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 26 years. For every 100 females there were 80.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 75.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $18,889, and the median income for a family was $26,862. Males had a median income of $23,333 versus $22,951 for females. The per capita income for the city was $12,340. About 30.0% of families and 35.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 44.1% of those under age 18 and 26.3% of those age 65 or over.


Tuskegee has one weekly newspaper, The Tuskegee News, which has operated since 1865.[15]

Notable natives and residents[edit]

  • Rosa Louise Parks was born here in 1913; she became a civil rights activist in the 1950s in Montgomery, Alabama, contributing to the more than year-long Montgomery Bus Boycott that achieved desegregation of the city system.
  • Lionel Richie was born here in 1949; Rhythm & Blues singer, songwriter, musician, record producer, and occasional actor.
  • Toussaint Tildon, one of the first six African-American doctors to work at Tuskegee VA Medical Center, built in 1923, he served as a psychiatrist for more than 30 years and directed the hospital for six years.[2]
  • Sammy Younge Jr. was born in Tuskegee; he was a civil rights activist.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ See "Pronunciation of Tuskegee." thefreedictionary.com.. Retrieved: 3 October 2010.
  2. ^ a b c "Tuskegee VA Medical Center Celebrates85 Years of Service", press release, Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System (CAVHCS), 2008
  3. ^ a b c d Allen Mendenhall, "Gomillion v. Lightfoot", Encyclopedia of Alabama, 2 May 2011
  4. ^ "The Booker T. Washington Era (Part 1)", African American Odyssey, Library of Congress, 21 Mar 2008, retrieved 3 Sep 2008 .
  5. ^ Richard B. Sobol, "Reviewed Work: Gomillion versus Lightfoot: The Tuskegee Gerrymander Case by Bernard Taper", Columbia Law Review Vol. 62, No. 4 (Apr., 1962), pp. 748–751 (subscription required)
  6. ^ Richard H. Pildes, Democracy, Anti-Democracy, and the Canon, Constitutional Commentary, vol.17, 2000, pp.13–14 Accessed 10 March 2008
  7. ^ Elizabeth D. Schafer. "Tildon, Toussaint Tourgee", American National Biography Online, February 2003, published by Oxford University Press, Inc., copyright 2000 American Council of Learned Societies
  8. ^ a b Richard B. Sobol, "Reviewed Work: Gomillion versus Lightfoot: The Tuskegee Gerrymander Case by Bernard Taper", Columbia Law Review, Vol. 62, No. 4 (Apr., 1962), pp. 748–751, Published by: Columbia Law Review Association, Inc., accessed 17 January 2015 (subscription required)
  9. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  10. ^ We Shall Overcome – Butler Chapel AME Zion Church. Cr.nps.gov (1957-06-25). Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
  11. ^ Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System East Campus – Locations. .va.gov. Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
  12. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". Census.gov. Retrieved June 6, 2013. 
  13. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2013". Retrieved June 3, 2014. 
  14. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  15. ^ The Tuskegee News

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 32°25′53″N 85°42′24″W / 32.431506°N 85.706781°W / 32.431506; -85.706781