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.
Officials at Tuskegee University and Rosenwald’s private foundation, the Julius Rosenwald Fund, collaborated to provide architectural plans and matching funds to help build more than 5300 schools, teacher’s homes and vocational shops in 15 Southern and Southwestern states.
Rosenwald contributed more than $4.3 million, and African Americans themselves contributed more than $4.7 million to construct the schools that helped elevate the socioeconomic status of blacks across the regions.
Initially envisioned as a rural school building program, a majority of the schools were constructed in the countryside or in smaller communities. As newer schools were built to replace the old ones, or integration took place, Rosenwald Schools were often abandoned, demolished, or simply turned over to communities in which they were located. Based on incomplete survey figures, there may be as few as 15 percent of Rosenwald Schools surviving today.
Since 2002 the National Trust has helped raise awareness, funding, and community support for the preservation of the schools through our Rosenwald Schools Initiative.
- 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.
Save 100 Rosenwald Schools as vital hubs of community activity and revitalization.
Donate to our campaign to save Rosenwald Schools.Donate
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