This dissertation is a cultural and intellectual history of black education, nationalism, and empire. I argue that educational philanthropy played an indispensable role in the construction of Anglo-Christian nationalism in the nineteenth century, and Anglo-American empire in the twentieth. The Tuskegee idea, as embodied in the educational philosophy of Booker T. Washington and underwritten by corporate philanthropy, enabled advances in African American literacy, economic development, and land ownership. However, it packaged these advances in such a way that they accommodated disfranchisement and segregation as the dominant organizing principles of the southern and the national political order. Moreover, the principles of the Tuskegee idea proved adaptable to educating colonial subjects in Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and other imperial settings across the globe.
Tuskegee Institute became a laboratory for the working out of race relations in the South. The Tuskegee idea---a complex of theories regarding racial differentialization, progress, and the gradual accrual of citizenship rights for African Americans---played a prominent role in the regional unification of the North and South into a modern nation-state, the exclusion of African Americans from the national family, and an entry point for the U.S. into the family of nations. As such, it played a key role in Gilded-Age contests over the meaning of citizenship for African Americans, for women, and for poor whites. Those who participated in these contests helped define the meaning of American nationalism in the modern era.