Tyrene Wright provides different perspective on Booker T. Washington

Tyrene Wright visited the Lecture Hall of Meek-Eaton Black Archives Research Center & Museum to speak to Florida A&M University students Thursday.

Wright, Ph.D, is a scholar, human rights activist, producer, poet and founder of African Women for Africa, an international non-government organization.

Wright’s lecture was focused on Booker T. Washington, the subject of her forthcoming book: “Booker T. Washington & Africa: The Making of a Pan Africanist.”

Booker T. Washington was a leader in the African-American community during the late 1800s and the early 1900s.

Regarding the founding of Tuskegee University, Wright said Louis Adam was the founder of Tuskegee and that Booker T. Washington is the “conceptual founder of Tuskegee.”

Washington, who was the first teacher at the university has commonly been portrayed as an “Uncle Tom,” or an “accommodationist,” Wright said.  Wright, who has conducted extensive research on Washington, disagreed with such accusations.  

She believes Washington has been misunderstood. According to Wright, non-African Americans have written 85 percent of the books about African Americans.  

David Jackson, a professor of history at FAMU, moderated Thursday’s lecture presented via Skype. He thought Wright’s lecture was interesting.

“She’s taking the Pan-African approach to looking at Washington,” Jackson said.

According to Jackson, the majority of scholars have not focused on Washington’s involvement in Africa. Washington was credited for being victorious in his fight against United States legislation that would have prevented “Africans” who were not apart of the diaspora from traveling to America and visa versa, Wright said.

The opposed legislation was struck down decades ago during the first week of January, which makes Wright’s lecture timely in connection with the recent anniversary of Washington’s victory. Coincidentally, Washington’s Centennial Year Kick-Off Lecture began Friday, Jan. 23 at the University Chapel on Tuskegee’s campus.

Wrights lecture in the Black Archives Research Center was free and open to the public. FAMU faculty and students composed the majority of the audience.

Kimberlyn Elliot, a senior history student from Gainesville, Fla., thought it was exciting and inspiring to see an African American woman scholar of history.

“You can tell that she’s put a lot into her research and it’s nice to see her explore a figure in African American history who evokes such strong feelings,”  Elliot said.