The American Antiquarian Society has a collection of fifty-six photographs depicting life in and around Tuskegee Institute, in Tuskegee, Alabama, ca. 1890-1915, taken by an unknown photographer. The campus, now known as Tuskegee University, is depicted here during the tenure of the school’s first president Booker T. Washington. Under Washington's leadership, students learned trades while also constructing the school's buildings brick by brick.
In these photographs, African-American students, both male and female, are seen in the various schools on campus learning practical skills including nursing, dairy, sewing, teaching, farming (cotton and sugar cane), mattress making, blacksmithing, printing and laundering. The collection also includes group portraits of students and teachers, many standing outside of the school's buildings. There are also images of the other buildings on and near the school's campus, including former slave quarters and a plantation house.
Also within the collection are scenes of camp meetings, and of the Tuskegee Negro Conference, or Annual Negro Farmer’s Conference, the latter held annually beginning in 1892. The conferences provided local farmers and their families a day of instruction to help them improve their lives with new methods of farming and living healthily.
Images of the Snow Hill Normal and Industrial Institute, founded by Tuskegee graduate William James Edwards (Class of 1893) show the school in its early stages. The school remained open until 1973, when desegregation finally reached Wilcox County, Alabama.
Some images portray life in Alabama's Black Belt, in the south-central region of the state, originally named because of the region's rich black topsoil, where cotton was easily grown. Later, the term “Black Belt” was used to refer to a larger portion of the Southern United States where the majority of the population is African American.