In 1912, Booker T. Washington approached Julius Rosenwald, a board member at Tuskegee Institute and President of Sears, Roebuck and Company, with an idea to build six small schools in rural Alabama. The effort sparked a program providing seed grants for the construction of more than 5,300 buildings in 15 states, including schools, shops, and teachers' houses built by and for African Americans. In 1954, when the Supreme Court ruled segregation in education unconstitutional, the schools became obsolete. Many Rosenwald Schools, once the pride of their communities, were neglected, abandoned, or demolished. In 2002, the National Trust named Rosenwald Schools to its list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.
The Rosenwald School building program is recognized as one of the most important partnerships to advance African American education in the early 20th century. Despite the schools' historic significance, only a small percentage of Americans are familiar with the iconic structures and their impact on our nation's history.
- Educate Americans about the Rosenwald Schools, and inspire them to protect dozens more of the historic structures.
- Develop training workshops so that grassroots groups can manage and maintain Rosenwald Schools in their own communities.
- Develop resources for the preservation of Rosenwald schools.
Ways To Help
Written by Katherine Carey, Editor of Rosenwald School National Treasure E-News
The National Trust for Historic Preservation is pleased to announce the first recipients of the Rosenwald School Centennial Fund. This new grant program provides bricks and mortar project funding for Rosenwald schools. This initial round of funding provided seven grants totaling $96,150 to schools in four states.
Following is a list of funded projects:
•$10,000 to the Chattahoochee County Historic Preservation Society in Cusseta, GA, for the restoration of the Cusseta Industrial High School
•$8,000 to the Castalia Community Development Corporation in Castalia, NC, for the Castalia Rosenwald School
•$20,000 to CrossRoads Corporation for Affordable Housing and Community Development, Inc., for the Billingsville School in Charlotte, NC
•$13,150 to West Rowan Neighborhood of Cleveland, NC, for the R.A. Clement Rosenwald School
•$20,000 to Lincoln County for the Oaklawn Rosenwald School in Lincolnton, NC
•$20,000 to Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Westminster, SC, for the Retreat Rosenwald School
•$5,000 to the Shady Grove School in Gum Spring, VA
Funding for this first round of Centennial Fund grants was provided by a gift to the National Trust from the Righteous Persons Foundation.
If you would like to be added to the Rosenwald School E-Newsletter and be the first to hear about grant opportunities, events and other Rosenwald Schools news, please send an email to Rosenwald@savingplaces.org. For more information on all grants available for Rosenwald School projects visit our grants page on the National Trust's main website.
Written by Dr. Jessie Carney Smith, Dean of the Library, Franklin Library, Fisk University
The Franklin Library at Fisk University announces the availability of two additional research collections on Julius Rosenwald and the rural Negro schools program. The S. L. Smith Collection consists of the records of Samuel Leonard Smith (1875-1956), who was administrator, architect, author, and educator, and covers the period 1869-2007. In 1920 Smith established and directed the Julius Rosenwald Fund Southern Office in Nashville, Tennessee, where he revised community school plans, and helped to establish over 5,358 Rosenwald schools and over 10,000 libraries. After the last Rosenwald School was built, the Eleanor Roosevelt School at Warm Springs, Georgia, Smith retired from the fund in 1937. The collection includes activities of the Rosenwald fund, correspondence from many prominent educators and prominent leaders, clippings, publications, reports, writings, and miscellaneous items related to the fund.
The Franklin Library also processed the Julius Rosenwald Fund Collection--Supplement No. 1-1918-1946. The supplement includes data on Rosenwald's life and work, correspondence, minutes, financial data, annual reports documenting aid to Negro schools (1940-42), and on a variety of subjects related to black people, including art, education, fellowships, politics, colleges and universities, housing, labor, hospitals, and health care professionals (medical, dental, and nursing). There are numerous blueprints, maps, and drawings of Rosenwald schools and hospitals. Many items in the collection are fragile.
Researchers who are interested in using the collections must contact Dr. Jessie Carney Smith, Dean of the Library, Franklin Library, Fisk University, Nashville, TN 37208, or email email@example.com. The finding aids are not currently available online.
By Katherine Carey
Julia Bache, a sophomore at Kentucky Country Day School in Louisville, is working hard to earn the highest achievement in Girl Scouting – the Girl Scout Gold Award. Her project is concentrated on Rosenwald Schools. To date, she has written and presented a nomination for Buck Creek Rosenwald School for the National Register of Historic Places. Julia says, "at first, I thought the nomination process would be a straightforward history project, but I've also made some really nice connections and unexpected friendships with some of the former students, as well as with the owner of the school."
The Gold Award requires a seven-step project to solve a community problem or perform a public service. The final steps of the project require the incorporation of education and inspiration. As the education component of Ms. Bache's project, she is developing a Rosenwald School traveling exhibit for the state of Kentucky: Lessons From Rosenwald Schools: National Treasures. Julia plans to use oral histories she has collected through interviews with alumni of Buck Creek Rosenwald School in the traveling exhibit. "Before I started this project I had no idea that Rosenwald Schools even existed. Now I have the opportunity to tell others and want to make more people aware of these important places."
Written by Tracy Hayes, Project Manager
The National Trust is currently accepting applications for the new Rosenwald School Centennial Fund grant program. These grants in amounts of up to $20,000 are for the rehabilitation of Rosenwald Schools. They require a cash match. Interested applicants should click here to review the grant guidelines and eligibility criteria. The deadline for Rosenwald School Centennial Fund grants is April 15, 2013. The National Trust's Centennial Fund is made possible by a lead gift from the Righteous Persons Foundation.
The Rosenwald School Centennial Fund grant program honors the National Trust's commitment to help save 100 Rosenwald Schools as vital hubs of community activity and to inspire others to save dozens more. Constructed in Alabama, the first Rosenwald School opened in the spring of 1913. For more history of Rosenwald Schools please click here.
Carol White on May 29, 2013
I am Carol White, the great-grandaughter of John White of Forrest County, MS. He and Mr. Rosenwald opened the John White School and Teacher's home in 1927 in Maxie, MS. I am currently working on a film about the impact this accomplishment had on our family. I would also love to hear from anyone else who has a connection to or attended the John White school. I have uploaded a photo of my great-grandfather that was given to me by my father before he died (my father and his siblings attended the school).
Billy King on April 04, 2013
There is a Rosenwald School in Bemis, Tennessee a mill town that is on the National Register. It is in fair shape and needs to be saved.
Tracy Hayes on March 12, 2013
In Mississippi check with the State Historic Preservation Office, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and inquire about their grant programs. For National Trust grant opportunities see http://www.preservationnation.org/resources/find-funding/
Vicki Yates on March 11, 2013
I believe I found a rosenwald school it is for sale at 9775 Patterson rd rockvale Tn it is online I checked it out it needs alot of work but would love to see it saved
Antoinette M Stewart on September 27, 2012
Over the past 4yrs I and my research partner have worked to save a 2rm school in Jefferson Cty,MS. When starting the research we found the school on the Fisk Univ.List. During the research process we found that the $'s set aside was stolen by the superintendent of Negro Schools. The school is currently still standing but is in need of serious repairs. We are considered a Rosenwald Ghost School because the needed changes were not made due to the theft. We are in the process of trying to raise $150,000. to restore this most historic structure. Our website is:http://poplarhillschool.webs.com
Floyzell Stevenson on August 19, 2012
Please visit our school and community at www.pleasanthilltexas.org.
Mabel Dickey, Mars Bluff, South Carolina on July 02, 2012
Julius Rosenwald was an exceptional person to see the need for the African American people. Even though legislation was passed and you were supposed to educate African American children, there was no one to enforce the law. So I think it's important for children to learn more about the Julius Rosenwald Foundation and the schools that are still standing – and even the ones that have been torn down – just to get the history. Everyone should look at education and where we came from.
Bennie Boyd on June 29, 2012
The Brooklyn Rosenwald,constructed in 1928-1929 school may be the only Rosenwald School still standing in Spartanburg County, South Carolina. It was built near on land adjoining Brooklyn CME church in Chesnee, South Carolina in the rural northeastern part of Spartanburg county. The church gained ownership of the school and maintained it for many years until 2009 when the church no longer had the money to make repairs. The roof in caving in and rain poors through the roof. An effort was made two years ago to try to get the school on the National Historic Register and get emergency aid to repair the roof but there was resistance. We need help. The church has no money to maintain the school building. If nothing is done this national historic treasure will be lost to Spartanburg county and the nation forever.
Brent Leggs, Boston, MA on June 09, 2012
Traveling to central Kentucky to visit my grandmother, I remember passing old, wooden school houses in need of a fresh coat of paint, weeds removed from their interiors, and at least 1,000 prayers to bring life back to them. But when I realized these schools were Booker T. Washington's vision for educating blacks following Reconstruction, they became testimonials. Each place had a story. These structures began communicating the power of education for removing racism and inequalities in America. When I see these places, I try to imagine how a man born into slavery could become the first African American invited to the White House, establish a premiere academic institution (Tuskegee University), write his own autobiography, and help to build over 5,000 schools in 15 southern states. I hope they are all saved, so the next generation of Americans can be inspired to make a difference in their communities.
Frederick Calhoun James, Prosperity, SC on June 09, 2012
The greatest days of my life were at Howard Junior High School in Prosperity, SC. Those were my days of discovery. The days of my impression making with regards to anything that was important later in my life.
T. Hall, Pomaria, SC on June 09, 2012
I’ve been involved with the Hope School, a two-teacher Rosenwald School built in 1925, all my life. When I was a child, I remember St. Paul’s AME church next door was a historic building also, but they tore it down. I couldn’t do anything about it because I was five or six years old. But, I just thank God he put it back upon my heart to try to save the Hope School. I just feel so great. I am so excited every day when I talk about it. I feel I did something for the community and I want to give back to the community. When people call to use the school to have a graduation dinner, or anything, it makes me feel good inside because I love doing this work for the community.