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July 4, 2024 18 mins

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Hey, they're history fans, We're taking the day off, but
don't worry, We've got plenty of classic shows to tide
you over. Please enjoy these flashback episodes from the TDI
HC Vault. Hello, and welcome to This Day in History Class,
a show that believes there's no time like the present

(00:23):
to learn about the past. I'm Gabe Bluesier, and in
this episode, we're talking about the founding of an influential school,
one that marked the start of a new era for
African American education, both in Alabama and across the nation.

(00:46):
The day was July fourth, eighteen eighty one. The Tuskegee
State Normal School now Tuskegee University opened its doors to
students for the first time. The school had been establishished
under a charter from the Alabama Legislature and was intended
to serve as a training ground for future Alabama teachers.

(01:08):
To fulfill that purpose, Tuskegee's program provided students with a
mix of both academic and vocational training. The patriotic date
of the school's official opening was chosen to celebrate the
independence of the nation and the recent emancipation of the
African American people. According to the school's principal and lead teacher,

(01:30):
Booker T. Washington. Thirty students turned up for admission on
the first day of classes, and by the end of
the month they had been joined by twenty more. Although
Tuskegee Institute was founded in the summer of eighteen eighty one,
planning for the school began several years earlier. In eighteen
seventy nine, a formerly enslaved tim smith and community leader

(01:53):
named Lewis Adams was approached by a political hopeful named W. F. Foster.
Foster was a white Southern Democrat running to keep his
seat in the Alabama Senate, and he hoped that Adams
would use his influence to help him secure the black
vote in Macon County. Lewis Adams agreed to help, but
in exchange, he wanted Foster to pass a bill allocating

(02:17):
money for the construction of an educational institute for African Americans.
Foster went on to win his race, and with the
aid of his colleague in the House of Representatives, Arthur L. Brooks,
he was able to uphold his end of the bargain. Together,
Foster and Brooks drafted House Bill one sixty five that
legislation authorized the creation of an all black school in Alabama,

(02:41):
and allocated two thousand dollars to pay the salaries of
teachers and to provide free tuition to any student who
agreed to teach in an Alabama public school upon graduation.
The bill also created a board of commissioners to help
organize and manage the school. Among the original men members
were Lewis Adams and George W. Campbell, both of whom

(03:04):
are generally considered the school's co founders, along with Booker T. Washington.
Speaking of Washington, let's trace the path that ultimately led
to him becoming the first principal of Tuskegee's new school.
Booker Talia Faroe or Tolliver Washington was born into slavery
in Hailesford, Virginia, on April fifth, eighteen fifty six. When

(03:28):
he was nine years old, Washington and his family gained
their freedom under the Emancipation Proclamation. Shortly after, they moved
to the free state of West Virginia, where the young
boy taught himself to read and began attending school for
the first time. In his teenage years, Washington performed backbreaking
labor in the salt furnaces and coal mines of West Virginia,

(03:51):
eventually saving up enough money to afford tuition at Hampton
Institute in Virginia. He enrolled there in the fall of
eighteen seventy two, and later proved to be such an
exemplary student that he was asked to return as a
teacher in eighteen seventy nine. Two years later, the founder
and president of Hampton Institute, General Samuel C. Armstrong, received

(04:14):
a letter from George Campbell and Lewis Adams. They were
looking for a quote well qualified white man to serve
as principal of their new school in Tuskegee, and they
wanted to know if Armstrong had any recommendations. The General
responded by recommending the twenty five year old booker T.
Washington for the job. He's the best man we ever

(04:37):
had here, Armstrong wrote, I know of no white man
who could do better. Washington got the job and arrived
in Tuskegee during the summer of eighteen eighty one. He
quickly realized he had his work cut out for him.
The Alabama House Bill had allocated funds for salaries intuition,
but it didn't provide any land or buildings for the school.

(05:00):
As a result, the initial classes were held inside a
ramshackle one room building that had been lent to the
school by a local church. In his book Up from Slavery,
Washington reflected on this early challenge, saying, quote, I recall
that during the first months of school that I taught
in this building, it was in such poor repair that,

(05:21):
whenever it rained, one of the older students would very
kindly leave his lessons and hold an umbrella over me
while I heard the recitations of the others. This arrangement
was untenable for obvious reasons, so three months later, Washington
purchased a one hundred acre abandoned cotton plantation that had

(05:41):
been partially burned during the Civil War. It was known,
fittingly enough as the Old Burnt Place. The cost of
the farm was five hundred dollars, with a two hundred
and fifty dollars down payment. An old friend from the
Hampton Institute, James Marshall, loaned the money to Washington from
his personal bank account. The only farm buildings that had

(06:03):
survived the fire were a cabin, a kitchen, a stable,
and a henhouse. It was a modest improvement over the
school's original makeshift classroom, but the real value of the
property was the opportunity for expansion it provided. Washington and
his students work themselves ragged, transforming their new campus not
only into a functioning school, but a functioning farm as well.

(06:27):
They cleared dozens of acres of land, planted crops, and
even constructed a kiln so they could make bricks to
build their own buildings. Meanwhile, Olivia A. Davidson, the school's
only other teacher and Washington's future wife, began hosting fundraising
festivals and dinners as a way to help pay back
the school's loan. After just three months of her campaign,

(06:51):
enough money had been earned to repay the loan to
James Marshall, and two months after that, the school was
able to pay off the remaining cost of the land,
meaning that it now owned its one hundred acre campus
full and outright. These early fundraising successes were key to
the school's survival and would later be turned to time
and time again as part of Washington's never ending effort

(07:14):
to keep the school debt free and prosperous. Those efforts
were not in vain either, as Tuskegee quickly rose to
national prominence under the direction of its founder He remained
the head of the institution until his death in nineteen fifteen,
at which point he was buried on the campus near
the university chapel. At the time of Washington's death, Tuskegee

(07:37):
Institute had fifteen hundred students, roughly two hundred faculty members,
and one hundred fully furnished buildings. He had taken the
school a long way in his lifetime, and that legacy
of progress continues to this day. Now known as Tuskegee University,
the school is home to about three thousand students and

(07:57):
is one of the top ranked historically black colleges in
the country. That's one of the many reasons why the
school was and still is the pride of the swift
growing South. I'm Gabe blues Yay, and hopefully you now
know a little more about history today than you did yesterday.
You can learn even more about history by following us

(08:20):
on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at TDI HC Show, and
if you have any comments or suggestions, you can always
send them my way at this day at iHeartMedia dot com.
Thanks to Chandler Mays for producing the show, and thank
you for listening. I'll see you back here again. Tomorrow
for another Day in History Class. Hello, and welcome to

(09:04):
this Day in History Class, a show for those who
can never know enough about history. I'm Gabe Lucier, and
in this episode, we're looking back at a very special
Fourth of July weekend in New York City. Millions of
people had gathered there to celebrate the one hundredth birthday

(09:25):
of the Statue of Liberty, and the party officially kicked
off on July third, when the statue was relt for
the first time in years. The day was July third,
nineteen eighty six. President Ronald Reagan rededicated the Statue of

(09:50):
Liberty in honor of its centennial anniversary. The event was
held on Governor's Island in New York City and was
part of the opening night ceremonies of a four day
celebration dubbed Liberty Weekend. The country had just completed an
extensive three year restoration of the Statue of Liberty, and
the big reveal had been time to coincide both with

(10:13):
the statue centennial and with Independence Day weekend. Relighting the
statue's torch was the opening act of the patriotic festivities,
and Reagan was joined in the task by his wife,
First Lady Nancy Reagan. French President Francois Mederon was in
attendance too, a gesture of goodwill from the country that

(10:34):
had gifted the statue a century earlier. After giving a
ten minute rededication speech, the President declared at time to
quote unveil that gallant lady. Then he and Missus Reagan
pressed a button, sending a laser beam across the harbor
and re lighting the statue for all to see. The

(10:54):
flood lit unveiling happened gradually, with the light slowly rising
from the base of the pedestal to the tip of
the crown, more than three hundred feet in the air.
A chorus of America the Beautiful swelled in the background,
and all the ships in the harbor turned on their
lights and sounded their horns in tribute. Then, to cap

(11:16):
off the evening and start the weekend outright of fireworks
display filled the skies above the statue's head. In nineteen
eighty two, four years before the statue's centennial, a team
of French and American engineers was convened to examine the
statue's condition. Their findings weren't good, and it was announced

(11:36):
that the statue was in need of major repairs, both
inside and out. Shortly after, President Reagan appointed Lee Iacocca,
then chairman of the Chrysler Corporation, to spearhead a private
commission to help restore and preserve the Statue of Liberty.
With that goal in mind, the Statue of Liberty Ellis

(11:57):
Island Foundation was founded. The group launched a fundraising drive
right away, collecting money for the repair of both the
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, with the statues restoration
to be handled first. The American people believed so strongly
in restoring those two monuments to America's immigrant heritage that

(12:18):
they contributed more than three hundred and fifty million dollars
in donations. With the necessary funds secured and then some,
the foundation began working closely with the National Park Service
to plan and implement the statue's restoration. They hired architects, engineers,
and conservators to assess exactly what repairs were needed, and

(12:40):
then designed a strategy for how to tackle each one.
In nineteen eighty four, the statue was closed to the
public and the true hard labor began. Workers erected scaffolding,
all around the statue's exterior, obscuring it from view for
the better part of the next three years. Time had
not been come to Lady Liberty. Her famous torch, for example,

(13:03):
had sustained severe water damage and had to be replaced
with an exact replica of Frederic August Bertoldi's original design.
The torch's new flame was even covered in a layer
of twenty four carried gold, so that it would reflect
the sun's rays in the daylight, just as the sculptor
had intended. Repairs were also made to the statue's internal skeleton.

(13:26):
Workers stripped out the rusting iron armature and replaced it
with stainless steel bars, greatly strengthening the statue's arms, shoulders,
and the rays of her crown. A century of weather
pollution and tourists had also wreaked havoc on the statue's
skin and gown. Workers used liquid nitrogen to remove layers

(13:46):
of old paint from the interior of the copper skin,
and then they patched holes in the exterior, adding new
copper where necessary. Replacing the statue's skin proved tricky, though,
as the look of it had changed a great deal
since its inaugural dedication back in eighteen eighty six. When
it first arrived, the monument had been new, shiny copper,

(14:09):
but as the decades passed, the statue turned a dull
brown and then faded to the familiar blue green color
we see today. That weathering was the result of a
series of interconnected chemical reactions which changed the statue's mineral composition.
It would have been impossible to match the color using
brand new copper, so instead, the engineers borrowed an old

(14:31):
copper rooftop from Bell Labs, which had the same blue
green patina as the statue. In exchange for that contribution,
the lab was given some of the old copper skin
for testing. The Statue of Liberty and its pedestal were
also modernized during the restoration. Updates included new elevators, improved lighting,

(14:52):
and the addition of an educational exhibit in the statue's base.
Crews encountered plenty of surprises during the lengthy refurbishment, including
several birds nests tucked into the folds of Lady Liberty's robes.
They also discovered graffiti dating back to the statue's construction,
including a letter B for Bartoldi painted on the first

(15:13):
copper plate to be installed. However, not all of the
surprises were pleasant. For example, it turned out Bartoldi had
used an asbestos based substance in an effort to prevent
galvanic corrosion. Not only did that not work, it also
meant that workers had to wear protective gear with self
contained breathing devices while working inside the statue. Despite this

(15:36):
and other obstacles, the nearly one thousand workers on the
project and the architects and engineers who directed them completed
the task on schedule and for a lot less money
than many had predicted. The total cost of the renovations
on the Statue of Liberty and her Torch cost an
estimated thirty nine million dollars, which would be about one

(15:57):
hundred and eight million dollars in today's money. More controversial
was the eleven million dollars that New York City spent
on the statue's Liberty Weekend celebrations. Many thought the money
could have been put to better use than throwing a
lavish party, especially since tickets to the opening night ceremonies
could only be purchased for five thousand dollars, a price

(16:20):
tag well beyond the means of the average American accessible
or not, the statue's grand unveiling was planned with as
much glitz and glamour as possible. David Walper, the producer
of the Landmark Roots mini series, was brought in to
produce the ceremony for live TV. Celebrity speakers included the
likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Gregory Peck, and there were

(16:43):
also musical performances from Neil Diamond, Frank Sinatra, and several others.
In estimated two million people watched the rededication in person,
while as many as one point five billion watched from
their homes in fifty one different countries. It had been
a long, expensive road to restoring Lady Liberty, but when

(17:04):
the climactic moment finally came and she lit up once again,
most Americans agreed it had been worth it. And for
those who still weren't feeling the patriotic love that night,
well at least there were fireworks. I'm Gabelusier, and hopefully
you now know a little more about history today than

(17:25):
you did yesterday. If you have a second and you're
so inclined, consider following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram
at TDI HC Show. And if you have any feedback
you'd like to share, feel free to drop me a
line by writing to This Day at iHeartMedia dot com.
Thanks to Chandler Mays and Ben Hackett for producing the show,

(17:47):
and thanks to you for listening. I'll see you back
here again tomorrow for another day in History class

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