The Euphemism “Tuskegee Time Machine” Coined by W.E.B. Du Bois

1 Posted by - March 23, 2020 - LATEST POSTS

The Tuskegee Time Machine was a popular expression used during the early twentieth century by black intellectuals including Monroe Trotter, and W. E. B. Du Bois.

The Tuskegee Machine referred to the financial control used over black education, particularly, over black newspapers and periodicals by Booker T. Washington. By 1904, Washington had successfully surrounded himself with what was called the “Tuskegee Machine.” It enabled him to be influential in many political decisions and he became viewed as the key national advisor for the African American community. As a result of this media control, readers of black newspapers and magazines rarely encountered materials un­favorable to Washington’s philosophy of accommodation.

W.E.B. Du Bois, who originally coined the euphemism, described the Tus­kegee Machine in following terms: “Tuskegee became the cap­ital of the Negro nation. Negro newspapers were influenced and finally the oldest and largest was bought by white friends of Tuskegee. Most of the other papers found it to their advantage certainly not to oppose Mr. Washington, even if they did not wholly agree with him. Negroes who sought high positions groveled for his favor.”




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  • Dana Driskell March 23, 2020 - 10:40 am

    Interesting perspective on a complex issue. Dr. Du Bois actively sought a position within the “Tuskegee Machine” – only after it didn’t work out did he begin his attacks. Washington’s contributions to the Black community were by any objective standard superior, although Du Bois’ followers have unfortuneately written the history of those times.

    It was relatively easy to be a militant in Great Barrington (Du Bois’ birthplace,) Harvard, or cosmopolitan NYC. A little harder in the Jim Crow south, where Ida B. Wells’ newspaper was burned to the ground after she criticized lynch law. Washington’s ‘accommodations” allowed him to stay in the south, and to train thousands of sharecroppers – men and women one generation”up from slavery.”

    • elaine smith March 23, 2020 - 1:37 pm

      Our ancestors needed BOTH of these men. Btw, Dr. Du Bois was very aware of what was happening in the South at that time because he attended Fisk University which is located in Nashville, TN. Read his classic book (one of my favorites) the “Souls of Black Folks” which describes his time as a teacher in rural middle Tennessee at the turn of the 20th century. He KNEW about that life.

  • Linda Tart March 23, 2020 - 5:19 pm

    Dana, I don’t recall DuBois, wanting to be a part of the TM. I never read that but that does not mean it is not true. However, to state that Washington’s contributions to the Black community as superior is stretching it a bit. Booker, the agricultural education model of education. Working on the farms, painting, brick laying, cooking, sewing, etc. Something to help and retain, a southern work force. He did not believe the “Negro” should not concern himself with voting or going into the professions. However, he sent his children to liberal arts schools. One of his sons went to Exeter. Booker was asked to come and get him, because he was not doing anything, but keeping late hours, smoking, and hanging in the pool hall. His daughter was sent to a liberal arts school and was kicked out because she could not keep up. A couple of years before he died, he did a southern tour, in which he told “Negros” not to leave the south because it was their home. This was during the time when the KKK ran wild and lynching was common. I am so glad that some Black people, did not listen to him. Additionally, shortly before he died, he said he regretted a lot of things that he did. Was it because many of his friends turned on him because of his educational model? I would like to know who those men were in the beautiful picture? The man on the right is William Monroe Trotter. I would like to know who the other two are.

  • William Dorsey March 23, 2020 - 5:34 pm

    “TIME” should not be part of the name of the MACHINE.

  • Rosa Lee March 24, 2020 - 11:28 pm

    I do not believe Booker T Washington had a son. He only had a doctor Portia. Both BTW and WEB DuBois were great men and had goals for helping the newly freed Black people. Unfortunately, neither personality was able to get together on any level as to how to reach their goals doing things differently but on two different levels. DuBois was a northerner with an excellent educational background whereas BTW was from West Virginia and while obviously a bright man, had his limitations as far as background; a former slave child (actually had a value higher than his mother, probably a mixed race man (never knew his real father) and based a lot of his behaviors on a white man whom he admired; the founder of Hampton Institute.