Booker Washington Agricultural & Industrial Institute (BWI), est. 1929


During the 1920s, Liberian President Charles D. B. King visited the United States and toured the Tuskegee Institute. Upon his return to Liberia, he hired Robert R. Taylor (MIT Class of 1892), to design a campus for a similar school in Kakata, Liberia. The Liberian government donated 1,000 acres for the proposed Booker Washington Agricultural & Industrial Institute (BWI). This "Tuskegee of Africa" was under the joint sponsorship of the Phelps-Stokes Fund, the Liberian government, and the Firestone Rubber Corporation (which had opened the world's largest rubber plantation in Liberia in 1926). Other supporters included the American Colonization Society, missionary boards, and individuals.

In 1929, Taylor and his wife Nellie traveled to Liberia, where he was to lay out architectural plans and to devise a program in industrial training for BWI. His recommendations for initial construction of the school included academic and agricultural buildings and staff housing, followed by a hospital, shops, and a dormitory. They would stay in Liberia for only 39 days, for the country was in the grip of a mild yellow-fever epidemic (it flared up again after their departure, claiming the lives of some of his new friends).

The Liberia project cemented Taylor's reputation among African Americans in the U.S., earning him an honorary doctorate from Lincoln University.

BWI was Liberia's first agricultural and vocational school. It was also the largest secondary school in the country during the first part of the 21st century and has been transitioning to a community college curriculum as of 2014.

Timeline: 2000s
School: School of Architecture and Planning
Department: Architecture
Career: EducationEngineering
Object: Video
Collection: Africa(n), Booker T. Washington, HBCUs, Order of Operations 1921-1945, Rising Voices 1995-Present, Robert R. Taylor, STEM Education, Tuskegee
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