Oasis Center welcomes Rosenwald Film with open arms

Posted January 23rd, 2015 by

On January 16, Director Aviva Kempner visited  Surburban hospital center Oasis, an educational program geared to senior citizens,  to showcase the work in progress of her latest film “The Rosenwald Schools.” The room was filled with smiles and excitement as members, volunteers, and staff paraded into the venue.


Poor Children Left Behind?

Posted January 22nd, 2015 by

Currently over half of public school students in the US are living at or below the poverty line. This leaves the vast majority of those children at a disadvantage in school because academic success is the least of their worries. The Washington Post informs us that “Of the 27 states with highest percentages of student poverty, all but five spent less than the national average of $10,938 per student.” With programs like Head Start on the chopping block, one understands why the gap of academic achievement increases as the school-to-prison pipeline lives on.

Continuing to expect children who live in poverty to perform just as well as privileged children seems to have become counterproductive.  While increasing the amount of funds allocated to public schools would be helpful, what would be even more helpful is establishing programs that give disadvantaged children an extra push to level out the educational “playing field”. Training teachers to be able to access the needs of each student is imperative. Additionally, after school programs, learning tools that can be taken home, clean clothes, and toiletries for each child who goes without would help them to feel normal if only during the school day.

Making a point to become aware of the lack of resources within impoverished communities of color, Julius Rosenwald would more than likely have given a sufficient amount of funds to each school. This individualistic approach would allow each school form a unique plan tailored to the needs of their students, unlike No Child Left Behind that ultimately does not help to narrow the achievement gap. The Rosenwald Fund encourages independence and self-reliance while financially assisting each person/program, which are what educational systems in the US desperately need to help disadvantaged students flourish.

To read the Washington Post article, click here.

Erica Marshall, Winter Intern

Building It All Back

Posted January 17th, 2015 by

Art collector and community activist Peggy Cooper Cafritz has been described as “resilient and so voracious.”  Five years ago, a fire destroyed her home, as well as her collection of contemporary African and African-American art.  The collection contained works from the likes of Kara Walker, Kehinde Wiley, Hank Willis Thomas, and Jacob Lawrence, who received a Rosenwald grant in 1940.  The collection had over 300 works and was worth millions of dollars.  Instead of dwelling on her tremendous loss, Peggy decided to continue collecting art that she loved.  Her new condominium is saturated with artwork, so much so that it can be hard to find the furniture.

To find out more about Peggy Cooper Cafritz, click here.

Selma snubbed in 2015 Oscar nominations

Posted January 16th, 2015 by

Ironically on the same day of what would have be Dr. Martin Luther King’s 86th Birthday, Selma is ignored in most categories for Oscar nominations, only getting nominated in the Best Song and Best Picture categories. David Oyelowo is not recognized for his exceptional portrayal of Dr. King and all were surprised when Ava DuVernay did not become the first black woman to be nominated in the Best Director category.

David Oyelowo, photographed on the set of ‘Selma’

Photo Source: www.independent.co.uk

The 87-year old awards show is historically known for having very little diversity amongst the list of nominees as a result of who is allowed to vote. The 6,000 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are over 90 percent white and over 70 percent male. Most serve life terms, leaving little hope for a multicultural list of nominees in the future.

Despite AMPA votes, this film still stands as the most politically influential of the year, addressing concerns of whether the fight for racial equality is over or if there’s still much more work to be done. Debuting at a very necessary time with the current protests against police brutality, Oyelowo represents Dr. King very well and served as an inspiration for  civil rights activists new and old.

For a list of all of the 2015 Oscar nominations go to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/style-blog/wp/2015/01/15/2015-oscar-nominations-complete-coverage/

Erica Marshall, Winter Intern

Discovering Antarctica’s Mount Rosenwald

Posted January 15th, 2015 by

On a National Geographic-Liblad cruise, Stephanie Deutsch got the chance to see Antarctica, where there is a mountain named after Julius Rosenwald.  The mountain “forms a distinctive landmark between the heads of the Baldwin and Gallup glaciers in the Queen Maud mountains.”  It was discovered by Rear Admiral Richard Byrd in 1929, who named it after Rosenwald.  It is an example of how Rosenwald’s influence can be found all over, or, as Aviva Kempner likes to say, “all roads lead to Rosenwald.”

Click here to read more about Mount Rosenwald on Stephanie’s blog.

Migration Series will soon be reunited exhibited at MoMA

Posted January 15th, 2015 by

For the first time since 1994, all sixty panels from Jacob Lawrence’s Migration of the Negro (commonly known as the Migration Series) will be reunited and displayed in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) at the Downtown Gallery in New York City. In an exhibition entitled “One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series and Other Visions of the Great Movement North,” the display will be open to the public from April until September of 2015. In 2016, the panels will go to the Phillips Collection here in Washington, DC to be shown.

These narrative paintings were created during the early 1940s, a time when many African Americans were migrating from the Jim Crow South to the North. Only 23 years old when creating this work of art, Lawrence used resources provided from the Rosenwald Fund and to travel to the South and witness firsthand the segregation and blatant racism in rural communities to serve as his inspiration for the series. Additionally, he addresses the struggles and triumphs of the migration using his personal experiences in the North as a child and young adult.

Although Julius Rosenwald expressed very little interest in art, his wife Adele Rosenwald Levy collected art and was drawn to Lawrence’s work and more than willing to make a contribution. She specifically loved panel 46, the reason why the even-number panels are in MoMA and the odd-number panels are located here in the Phillips Collection. This acquisition by Adele and the Rosenwald fund helped Lawrence to become the major figure in American art that he is still considered to be today.

For more info about the Migration Series, Jacob Lawrence and how to see the panel displays click below to view this article by the New York Times.


Erica Marshall, Winter Intern

60th Anniversary of Marian Anderson’s performance at The Met

Posted January 7th, 2015 by

Sixty years ago, on January 7th 1955, famed contralto Marian Anderson made history as the first African American to perform at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Anderson’s career was launched in the early 1930s when she travelled to Europe on two Rosenwald grants (you can read about her trip to Europe on a previous blog). Her success in Europe followed her back to America, where Anderson became a national icon. She is perhaps best remembered for her historic 1939 concert in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

You can read more about Marian Anderson’s 1955 Met Performance here.

Marian Anderson, photographed by Gordon Parks in 1943
Photo source: Farm Security Administration via Library of Congress

Anniversary of JR’s death coincides with approval of Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments renovation

Posted January 6th, 2015 by

Today marks the 83rd anniversary of Julius Rosenwald’s death. W.E.B. DuBois, co-founder of the NAACP and Rosenwald grant recipient, memorialized Rosenwald in The Crisis magazine by writing, “He was a great man, but he was no mere philanthropist. He was, rather, the subtle, stinging critic of our racial democracy.” Remembered in his own time for his remarkable deeds, Rosenwald’s accomplishments are hardly known today. We’re so excited to be premiering the film on February 25th at the Washington Jewish Film Festival and finally bringing Rosenwald the recognition today he so deserves.

Julius Rosenwald in 1917
Photo credit: Library of Congress, Harris & Ewing Collection

Rosenwald’s name is slowly becoming a household name again. After sitting over a decade in disrepair, the Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments have finally received a permit to be renovated. Known to its original residents as The Rosenwald Apartments, the restored complex will honor its roots and take the name The Rosenwald Courts. Although this project will take many years to complete, we’re glad that Rosenwald’s name will once again be known in the south side of Chicago. The world needs many more Rosenwalds.

The Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments in 2007
Photo credit: SilverRaven7 (flickr)

New interviews of The Rosenwald Schools: December 30, 2014

Posted January 6th, 2015 by

We recently filmed our last interviews for the film, sneaking them in before the end of the year. David Stern, Julius Rosenwald’s great-grandson, and Julian Bond graciously sat for some additional insights. David Stern offered more insight into Rosenwald’s life and career, as well as his great-grandfather’s innovative approach to philanthropy. Civil rights leader Julian Bond contextualized Rosenwald’s involvement in African American issues in the early part of the 20th century and detailed the many ways the Rosenwald Fund supported African Americans.

From left to right: Marian Hunter, Julian Bond, David Stern, Aviva Kempner
Photo credit: The Ciesla Foundation

Marian Sears Hunter, depicted on the left, is doing a tremendous job editing the film.  Held hostage in the editing room for weeks, Hunter is proving once again her skills.  She edited The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg.

We’ve had the pleasure of interviewing over 100 scholars, activists, Rosenwald school alumni and their descendants, and Rosenwald family members for this film. With our final interviews complete, and the production stage of the film over, we can focus all our energy on the final, finalediting the film and getting ready for the premiere on February 25th as part of the Washington Jewish Film Festival. See you there!

The Ciesla Foundation says goodbye to Associate Producer Michael Rose

Posted January 6th, 2015 by

After doing a great job as researcher and associate producer of the film for the past three years at The Ciesla Foundation, Michael is leaving today to further his education at New York University.  He will be studying Public Administration.  He could write a text working at this 501c3 and will be missed.  As a loyal Chicago White Sox fan, and having attended the University of Chicago, he was well versed in the history of the Windy City and Julius Rosenwald’s contributions.

Michael Rose
Photo credit: The Ciesla Foundation

Final Interviews

Posted January 6th, 2015 by

From left to right: Marian Hunter, Julian Bond, David Stern, Aviva Kempner.

Photo Credit: The Ciesla Foundation

Great find in the Lessing Rosenwald collection at the Library of Congress

Posted January 6th, 2015 by

We came across something remarkable at the Library of Congress this week. One of our researchers was there to look at some photos of Lessing Rosenwald, who donated a collection of rare books that has been one of the key components of the Library of Congress’s Rare Book and Special Collections division since his death in 1979. Born in 1891, Lessing was the first child of Julius and Augusta Rosenwald, and followed in his father’s footsteps in the 1930s as president of Sears Roebuck.

Lessing in July 1913 with Edith Goodkind, who he would marry in November of that year
Photo credit: Courtesy of Peter Ascoli

Descendants of the Rosenwalds talk about the divide between Lessing, Adele and Edith Rosenwald, who grew up in a close-knit middle class household, and Marion and William Rosenwald, who came of age after Julius Rosenwald had made his fortune at Sears. Unlike Lessing, Adele and Edith, Marion and William felt a certain distance from their parents as Julius and Augusta’s social and civic obligations began to take up more and more of their time.

Julius Rosenwald with his son Lessing, circa 1895
Photo credit: The estate of Nancy Salazar

Staff at the Library of Congress recently came across Lessing Rosenwald’s “baby book,” a beautiful volume that contains pictures of Lessing as a baby with his two sisters and mother, handwritten notes by his parents about his weight, when he started crawling, and even a lock of his hair from his first haircut. This amazing album sheds some light on the loving family circle Lessing grew up in and it’s a great complement to his legacy, the Rosenwald Room at the Library of Congress and the remarkable collection he so generously donated to the institution.

Augusta Rosenwald with her first three children, Edith, Adele and Lessing
Photo credit: Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection archive

Thanks to the staff at the Library of Congress for making this great collection available to all!

Forgotten Gordon Parks Photos Of His Hometown Discovered

Posted January 2nd, 2015 by

In 1950, while working for Life magazine, Gordon Parks returned to his hometown of Fort Scott, Kansas to photograph his classmates from the segregated Plaza School. Parks previously received a Rosenwald fellowship in 1942 to work at the Farm Security Administration. Known for his striking images that highlighted racial issues in America, Parks’ portrait of his former classmates offers a glimpse into the lives of African Americans on the cusp of the civil rights movement. Although the series was originally intended to be a Life cover story, the magazine never published the photographs, which were soon forgotten (you can read about another discovery of lost Parks’ photographs in a previous blog post).

An article in The New York Times details how the photographs were uncovered in the archives of the Gordon Parks Foundation by a curious curator at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. The museum will be opening an exhibition of the lost photos on January 17. The photographs themselves depict intimate moments from the lives of Parks’ now-adult classmates, most who were struggling to survive under the burdens of racism and segregation. Accompanying the photographs are Parks’ own words, his notes possibly intended as an introduction in Life magazine. Although there is no official explanation for why the story never ran, the exhibit’s curator speculates the spread was too political and newsworthy for the magazine.

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