Travel the Civil Rights Trail in Tuskegee

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May 30, 2009

To get a true understanding of the cultural history of Alabama, one must visit Montgomery and Tuskegee to see the sites integral to the end of racial segregation. Before venturing to the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site on the Tuskegee University campus and the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site nearby, go to Selma. There you can journey down the Selma to Montgomery March Scenic Byway and cover the same path taken by peaceful Civil Rights activists to protest racial discrimination at the State Capitol in Montgomery. The 54-mile byway follows U.S. 80 past a number of historic sites and memorials, such as the Edmund Pettus Bridge and the Civil Rights Memorial. From Montgomery it’s just a 45-minute drive on I-85 to Tuskegee.

tuskegee-means-warrior-in-creek-languageGeneral Info: The Tuskegee Institute was designated a National Historic Site in 1974, and includes the original brick buildings constructed by students to house the Tuskegee Normal School. Booker T. Washington was the school’s first principal when it opened on July 4, 1881. The site is located on the present-day campus of Tuskegee University.

booker-t-washington-portraitHours and Fees: The Institute is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Admission is free.

Activities: Ranger-led tours of The Oaks (home of Booker T. Washington) occur several times daily and begin at the George Washington Carver Museum. Access to the home is by reserved tour only.

Be sure to see the exhibits and interpretive programs at the George Washington Carver Museum, which highlight important milestones and achievements in the life of the great professor, scientist and inventor. Exhibits also trace the school’s evolution from the early Normal School to today’s Tuskegee University. Two introductory films about Carver and Booker T. Washington are both 30 minutes long and are shown upon request.

The Tuskegee University campus is a designated Historic District, with maps available at the Carver Museum for self-guided walking tours. Download the Landmark Photo Tour PowerPoint (6.0 MB) for a preview with contextual notes about significant campus sites.

the-oaks-houseOf course no visit to Tuskegee is complete without exploring the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site. This park commemorates the triumphs of the pioneering men and women who were involved in the Tuskegee Experience from 1942-1946. This program trained the first African-American military pilots, navigators and bombardiers (and related support personnel). The group’s distinguished service in combat led to the integration of the military in 1948.

Visit the Tuskegee Area Chamber of Commerce website and the City of Tuskegee website for more information on the town and what to see and do during your visit!

Accessibility: The Carver Museum is wheelchair accessible via ramps and an elevator. It also has two captioned videos for the hearing impaired. The Oaks is wheelchair accessible by chair lift to the first floor only.

carver-with-colleagues-at-tuskegee-instituteWeather: Temperatures in central Alabama typically range from the 90s-100s °F in summer, while spring and fall are mild. Moderate winter temperatures vary anywhere from the 30s-50s °F.

Camping Info: Stay in Montgomery, just 35 miles west of Tuskegee. Try either of the following campgrounds, or browse online for other parks nearby using theTrailer Life Directory.

Capital City RV Park
The Woods RV Park & Campground

If you’re from Alabama or have visited Tuskegee in the past, please chime in with your stories and tips! Your insights can help others have a fantastic trip. There’s plenty to see in the area, so tell us about your favorite spot!

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