TUSKEGEE, AL — As many marked America’s independence on the Fourth od July, Tuskegee University celebrated its 132 years of existence by honoring its two founders. The city and university community united for two graveside ceremonies for founders, Booker T. Washington and Lewis Adams.
During a wet start to the Fourth of July holiday, dozens braved rain and wind to join descendants of Washington and Adams to pray, sing songs and lay wreaths at the men’s graves. Rev. Charles Michael Adams, one of Lewis Adams’ descendants, led the prayers for the event.
“This meek and humble pioneer accepted the charge to become the first president of this mighty institution that has produced thousands and thousands of professionals throughout this nation and abroad,” Adams said of Booker T. Washington.
Alumna and Washington’s great granddaughter, Robin Washington Banks, read a passage from Washington’s memoir, “Up From Slavery,” and shared some history about the university’s humble beginnings in a one-room shanty and subsequent success.
“When he passed away in November, 1915, Booker left an institution with an endowment of approximately $2 million and property worth over $1.5 million and an annual budget of nearly $300,000,” Washington Banks said. “…To God be the glory!”
Later, a wreath of yellow and red flowers was placed on Washington’s grave and the “Lifting the Veil of Ignorance” statue. Afterward, there was a motorcade to Ashdale Cemetery in the City of Tuskegee to honor Lewis Adams at his gravesite. It was Adams who wanted to establish a school in the city and brought Booker T. Washington here to create the institution. Adams, the university’s first lobbyist, also secured the $2,000 appropriation from the state to pay teachers’ salaries.
After placing a wreath of red, white and blue flowers at Adams’ grave, participants sang “We Shall Overcome” and Rev. Adams thanked God for his ancestor having the vision to establish a school in the area. He also shared some insight about his relative’s character during his prayer.
“Mr. Adams was firm, fair and friendly,” he said. “He was the epitome of a true leader and he cared for all people from all walks of life.”