How Alabama HBCU Helped Black Latinos Find a Future After Slavery

In the 1900s, an Afro-Cuban skilled worker named Eleno Lino was on the hunt for education. 

Lino sought help far from the Caribbean island that had abolished slavery a little over a decade before and was left plundered after fighting for independence from Spain.

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He sent a letter to the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama seeking admission to the school founded by Booker T. Washington that had gained prominence for educating the descendants of enslaved people.

“Having heard by a friend of mine, the opportunities afforded by your night school to poor colored men who are (anxious) to have a better education, I write you these few lines to see if there is any room for me,” read the letter penned by his friend.

Lino was one of the dozens of Black Cubans and Puerto Ricans drawn to Jim Crow Alabama in the late 1890s through 1920s to attend what was then known as the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute under Washington, a formerly enslaved man who became one of the foremost Black leaders in the United States.

Inspired by Washington’s “up from slavery” message, the African-descended children of Cuban nationalists to artisans attended Tuskegee, connecting their challenges as oppressed Black people in the world and obtaining an education.

The Tuskegee-Cuba connection is a reminder that Black history is very much a part of Latino history, said history professor Frank Andre Guridy at Columbia University in New York City.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Tiffany Cusaac-Smith

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