Tuskegee Lovin’

The start of week 4 has officially marked the half way point of our Selma journey. I’m torn between feeling like I have so much more to experience and wanting to go home and share what I know with my family.

As usual, Karan and I have managed to wedge ourselves into another wonderful family. This week, we were host guests at the Paris’. A civil rights activist and well-known member of the community (he knows someone literally everywhere), we explored Tuskegee with Mr. Paris through museums and a meet-and-greet with the great Amelia Boynton Robinson. If you don’t know about her, that’s totally okay. Just Google her. Now.

Our first stop was the Tuskegee Airmen historic site, which served as our first formal introduction to the tireless and under appreciated efforts of colored soldiers. The interior of the museum had me in complete awe. A giant airplane commanded visitors’ attention smack-dab in the middle, while interactive video booths beckoned us to learn more about historic moments. So this was Tuskegee, a gold nugget of Black history and excellence, with hopes to preserve its history for generations to come.

The second stop was Tuskegee University, a premier HBCU (historically Black college/university) where Booker T. Washington served a great deal of his time. We had the opportunity to tour his house which was built and crafted by Tuskegee students but inspired by Mr. Washington’s travels. The seemingly mundane brown house was a lot larger inside than it looked. There were rooms for fencing, studies, a built-in sauna and small steps to accommodate one of Mr. Washington’s smaller wives. It was amazing to see the intricate details put forth in the banisters and wood carvings.

Tuskegee’s University’s history was founded under the premise of Black excellence. Even as a Bullet, it was obvious that the school had high expectations for their students. Our tour guide took a lot of pride in knowing all the details of Mr. Washington’s house, emphasizing the importance of the institution in the history of Black education. After our tour, we visited the George Washington Carver museum and a gallery exhibit about Bioethics with a focus on the HeLa (Henrietta Lacks) and the study of Syphilis progression on Black men.

A few days later, we went out to the farm where we went 4-wheel driving, fishing and sweet corn and okra picking. For me, it was my first time being exposed to some aspects of life on the farm and I absolutely loved it. Despite all the chigger and/or mosquito bites, the farm felt like the true definition of summer. Mr. Paris really encouraged us to relax and enjoy life while learning to appreciate the value of the nature around us.

Fortunately, Tuskegee was just the “break” (we still learned Civil Rights history and volunteered with a local summer program) I needed to help me remember to have fun during my fellowship. As always, I’m excited to return to Selma with a refreshed new attitude.

Andeulazia Hughes-Murdock ’18