Tuskegee Protest Underway

Tuskegee University holds a demonstration demanding the firing of the university President Brian Johnson. Photo Credit WSFA 12 TV
Tuskegee University holds a demonstration demanding the firing of the university President Brian Johnson. Photo Credit WSFA 12 TV

Tuskegee University students have issued a demand to the school’s Board of Trustees to fire newly- appointed President Brian Johnson. Johnson has been on the job for less than a year. He was selected by the Tuskegee Board of Trustees at the behest of Board Chairman General (Ret.) Charles Williams.

Around 9:00 o’clock a.m., Friday, student leaders began to assemble at the iconic Booker T. Washington monument at the center of the Tuskegee campus. The monument is located across from the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center, which has hosted the Board of Trustees annual meeting since Wednesday of this week.

The students demand that Johnson be fired before the close of business Friday and that his contract not be renewed. Additionally, the students demand that the next president be a Tuskegee alumnus.

Tuskegee students protests the arrogance and lack of transparency of university President Brian Johnson
Tuskegee students protests the arrogance and lack of transparency of university President Brian Johnson. Photo Credits: WSFA 12 TV

According to student leaders, they do not feel that Johnson has served the interest of the university well and their actions is a show of “no confidence” in his leadership.

Johnson was elected by the Board in late May of last year. He began his tenure in July to coincide with the day that Booker T. Washington first arrived on campus to begin the first day of classes at the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial School in 1881.

Since assuming his duties, Johnson has drawn the ire of the local community after he ordered the campus police to ban a local pastor, Harold H. Lusk, Sr., who had come onto campus to attend a Sunday night lecture presented by Johnson. The Board eventually ordered Johnson to rescind the ban on Lusk.

Also, the Tuskegee community felt alienated from the university for the first time in its history. Local government officials felt snubbed by Johnson when they learned that he had sent a letter to government officials in Montgomery, Alabama inviting them to attend a basketball game in his suite. He did not invite any Tuskegee officials to join him for a game in his suite.

Local community leaders have criticized him for not putting his children in the Macon County public schools, opting instead to enroll his children in schools in Auburn.

At its October Board meeting, Johnson was instructed to develop a dialogue with State Representative Pebblin Warren from Tuskegee. Warren is also a graduate of Tuskegee. She is the wife of the then Sheriff of Macon County. Johnson had been on campus since July, but did not meet Rep. Warren or had any idea that there was a Tuskegee Trustee within two miles of the university until the October 2014 Board meeting.

The student protesters have garnered the support of alumni and last year’s student leader, Gabriel Smith. He drove over from Auburn to support his former classmates.

Reminiscent of the student protest of 1968, an electronic communication between student protesters is calling for the students to shut down the Kellogg Center at 3:30 pm this afternoon. The 1968 protest locked Board members up in Dorothy Hall, the forerunner of the Kellogg Center. This protest resulted in the university calling in the National Guard and expelling every students enrolled in the school. The students were only allowed to return to the school under the protection of a federal court order.

At one point in the day, Floyd Griffin, a Board member from Milledgeville, Georgia came out to speak with the students. The students told him they were concerned about the safety of the campus at night and that they wanted properly heated and ventilated dormitories. They cited Johnson as being too arrogant and out of touch with the student community.

Additionally, we have received reports that two Montgomery television stations have arrived at the entrance of the campus, but have been denied access and are unable to speak with the students.


Harold Michael Harvey, is the author of the legal thriller “Paper Puzzle,” and “Justice in the Round: Essays on the American Jury System,” available at Amazon and at haroldmichaelharvey.com. He can be contacted at hmharvey@haroldmichaelharvey.com


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Published by Michael

Harold Michael Harvey is a Past President of The Gate City Bar Association and is the recipient of the Association’s R. E. Thomas Civil Rights Award. He is the author of Paper Puzzle and Justice in the Round: Essays on the American Jury System, and a two-time winner of Allvoices’ Political Pundit Prize. His work has appeared in Facing South, The Atlanta Business Journal, The Southern Christian Leadership Conference Magazine, Southern Changes Magazine, Black Colleges Nines, and Medium.

20 replies on “Tuskegee Protest Underway”

    1. I agree this is major. also, I hope the Board listens to the students. I just received a report that the board is meeting with the students as I type. Hopefully something good will come out of this.

      1. Student voices are the hallmark of our heritage at Tuskegee. It would be tragic if the Trustees don’t hear from them!!!

        This is a recruitment tool. ” students matter”!!

  1. I am a business woman from the city of Tuskegee and I support the students.

    1. I believe the student’s cause is just. It would be helpful if members of the community, the faculty and staff would write letters to the Board of Trustees and have those letters delivered before they open their meeting tomorrow morning.

  2. I support the students but if they are successful in having the President removed, we turn the selection of the next President to the same group that brought us the last 3. (2 Presidents and 1 Acting President). Unless there is a change in the Board’s leadership the next President will be worst than the last. Charles Williams has to go and we need to reassess the remaining members Board of Trustees to determine what value they add!!!

    1. You have expressed a very good point. The problem does not just lie in the person holding down the president’s seat. The board that appointed him and forced Dr. Rochon to throw in the towel before his contract was up must shoulder the blame for the university being stuck in the mud for the past three years.The alumni must hold the board accountable for what is happening at Tuskegee today.

  3. Please get these major issues and problems corrected @ Tuskegee, We need to keep the “GOOD” name for Tuskegee.
    Students make the University and must be listened too for concerns and hopefully resolved.
    Do what is right and keep the University on good foot.
    A concerned Alumni, class of 1963 and 1967.

      1. I’m not sure I understand what you are saying in the first six sentences of your comment. I cannot comment on them. However, this post does not discuss any disconnect between students and the community. It does reference a disconnect with the Johnson administration and the Tuskegee community. Also, your reference to a shooting incident reference the event taking place off campus. In a technical sense you are correct. However, that house near the tennis court is only off campus because it now has a private owner. When you and I were students, that property belonged to the university and was very much a part of campus life. Additionally, I disagree with your trivialization of the student’s concerns. The campus community is their community and they should develop interests that are of concern to them. I applaud their initiative in bringing their concerns to the Board of Trustees. Thus far this protest has been peaceful and I applaud them for the manner in which they have petitioned their governing body for the redress of their grievances. Give them a chance to express themselves. They will only be young adults for a short period of their lives.

  4. Stick together but don’t break any laws like we did. Be sure to keep outside agitators out, and follow good leadership.

  5. Honestly there has been some back and forth about the whole issue with President Johnson. Lest we forget these issues have. Even going on since Peyton was in office. Another thing, has anyone looked at the FULL list of demands? I have heard from students themselves that most of the demands are frivolous. Am I saying that President Johnson is perfect ,no. But am I saying there are two sides to everything, yes. As far as a disconnect between the students and community, its ALWAYS been there. From my parents generation at Tuskegee to mine, its always been there and recent events has made it worse (shootings of students off campus). He hasn’t been there a year give it a min.

  6. The Tuskegee President position has heavy weight responsibilities as you can see. Mr Johnson probably is an excellent scholar. He is finding the expectations of a president are king sized and duties extend from the Tuskegee campus to the stars. There is one person I know of who has carried the water for this prestigious university. Benjamin Franklin Payton. We shall not break due to current mishaps of our freshman president. As a scholar Mr Johnson is capable of amending his thinking and become one of the great presidents of our time. In the 8 months Mr Johnson has served just like a fraternity pledgee. Nothing he does will be right until he presses himself to play attention and give utmost respect to the ones who he is given the responsibility to lead. I expect our president to carry the water like the past presidents did. Nothing has changed for the president’s position in over 130 years. Mr Johnson adapt yourself to the new universe that surrounds you on all sides as your serve as our president. Your rise from the ashes will inspire. We expect nothing less from you.

    1. Well stated. I had a conversation with a member of the Board of Trustees on yesterday on this topic. The Board member shared with me that Johnson has the skill set needed by the university. This Board member went on to say that the only obstacle would be whether Johnson could learn to get along with the many components of the university community. Hopefully, he can.

  7. I hate to comment again, because I have been told that I am negative, that being said the Presidency of Tuskegee University should not be a position for a presidential trainee. We should be able to attract top level seasoned people. It is the deciders that need to be evaluated. This President had not lead or been in charge of anything before he was handed the reigns of Tuskegee University. Shame on the Board when they had the opportunity to bring in people with a track record of success!!! One would think the the Board wants someone that they can manage to the point of violation of SACS requirements of their involvement in the day to day operations, but I could be wrong. By the way I have been told that his writing does not represent a PhD in English. I guess thats negative enough.

    1. Calvin, your comments are always welcome on my site. I find your comments to be positive in that you are seeking to protect the rich tradition that Tuskegee has enjoyed since 1881. Keep pushing us all to become better alumnus.

      1. The past and current challenges facing Mother Tuskegee should and must be addressed by the governing body of
        Tuskegee University (The Tuskegee University Board Of Trustees) ,
        its students, faculty, staff are sounding an alarm.It is now time out for not addressing its current state of affairs.If not now when ?

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