Friday, October 9, 2009
By Martin J. Holland
We started today looking at the benefits of the wealth generated along Auburn Avenue in Atlanta. Our first stop was the Alonzo Herndon Museum Home.
Photo: The Alonzo Herndon Home
Herndon first made his money through being a barber, and slowly, through hard work, started to own a series of barbershops throughout the southeast. His most famous location was in downtown Atlanta on Peachtree, where he employed some twenty-six African American barbers to cut the hair of his powerful white clientele. The wealth that he earned through his establishment went back into the black community, and assisted him in amassing prime real estate locations in the south, and also providing the capital necessary to start Atlanta Life insurance.
Our tour then took us through the educational institutions that were established to teach the young minds of the rising black middle class. Clark Atlanta University, Spelman College, and Morehouse College were founded to address the necessity of providing excellent post secondary education to African Americans, so that those students would become the next generation of community, political and business leaders. Remember at the time of their respective founding, no black students were allowed to attend post secondary educational institutions in the south.
Photo: Martin Luther King Jr. statue at Morehouse College.
Photo: Sisters Chapel at Spelman College.
We also had a brief visit to Booker T. Washington High School, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. went to high school as a young man. Again, because of racial segregation, King had to travel miles to attend this all African American high school, even though there were numerous white high schools that were much closer to where he lived.
Photo of “Lifting The Veil” at Booker T. Washington High School. ( A copy of statue of the original statue is at Tuskegee University.)
We then departed Atlanta for Tuskegee, home of the famous Tuskegee Airmen, and the Tuskegee Institute founded by Booker T. Washington (now Tuskegee University).
Photo of Tuskegee Town Square.
We then walked the grounds of Tuskegee University, including the George Washington Carver Museum. The history of the University is fascinating. Lewis Adams, who recognized that while slavery had been abolished by the emancipation proclamation acts of 1862 and 1863, noted that freed slaves often possessed little formal education or marketable skills to support themselves or their families. Adam’s strong lobbying of the State of Alabama’s democratic party resulted in the establishment of the Institute in 1881, and he hired the young Booker T. Washington to serve as the first president of the school. The school proved to be a critical destination for many African Americans, as the school not only provided formal education, but also real world, “hands on” experience. Many of the buildings on the grounds were designed by the first African American architect in the United States, Robert Taylor, who had graduated from MIT in 1892, and the labor for the construction came from the Institute’s student body.
Photo of student laborers constructing a building at the Tuskegee Institute.
After a long, and full day, we headed to our next destination, Montgomery Alabama.