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*Lewis Adams was born on this date in 1842. He was a Black businessman, educator, and public policy administrator.
Adams was born a slave, became a successful tradesman, and was the founding force behind the establishment of the Tuskegee Institute. Little is known of his early life. It is known, however, that despite having no formal education, Adams could read, write, and speak several languages. He was also an experienced tinsmith, harness-maker, and shoemaker. He was married to "Sallie" Sarah Adams, and they had sixteen children.
Before the American Civil War, Macon County, Alabama, was a flourishing community based upon cotton agriculture. The county seat of Tuskegee was a cultural and educational center with several schools.
During Reconstruction, Adams, a leader in the Black community, was approached by two white politicians who wanted (through him) to secure the Black vote for them in the 1880 election. Adams agreed but only if the two would support establishing a college for Blacks in the county seat of Tuskegee. The deal was struck, and the two men were elected to the legislature. George W. Campbell, a former slave owner, worked closely with Adams to bring the college to Tuskegee.
In 1881, the legislature approved an act establishing the Tuskegee State Normal School to educate teachers. Adams and two other men were appointed commissioners, and with Campbell's help, they recruited a young Virginia educator from Hampton Institute, Booker T. Washington as the first principal at Tuskegee. Adams bought a "good" horse, a second-hand lumber wagon, a plow, a harness, and feed for the school.
Washington opened the school on July 4, 1881. Through the years, the other schools once located in Tuskegee closed or moved to other localities. Still, the educational institution that became Tuskegee University continues to be a center of learning and service for east Alabama, the entire state, the South, and the world. Lewis Adams died on April 30, 1905, in Tuskegee, Ala.