In a small ceremony held at the Shepherd Park Library in Northwest Washington D.C., the Humanities Council of Washington D.C. awarded its 2013 Cycle I Grants. The Ciesla Foundation, among a group of other deserving awardees, received funds that will be used to film final interviews for The Rosenwald Schools documentary. Many thanks to the Humanities Council for this generous award.
For the next couple months, two galleries in downtown Chicago will be showing complementary exhibitions featuring artwork by Rosenwald Fund fellows.
The Art Institute of Chicago offers a show entitled, “They Seek a City: Chicago and the Art of Migration, 1910–1950.” This show will consist of work by and about newcomers to Chicago during a period in which the city swelled with new immigrants from overseas and new African American residents from the South (in a movement known as the Great Migration). At the link above, the Art Institute uses two paintings by Archibald Motley to advertise the show. Motley, who was not a Rosenwald Fellow, was a great observer of Chicago’s South Side. Some of his best paintings of nightlife in the “Black Belt” are on permanent display in the Art Institute.
Across Michigan Avenue, at the beautiful Chicago Cultural Center, is “Rising Up: Hale Woodruff’s Murals at Talladega College.” This is an important show of work by the great Rosenwald fellow, and we blogged about it when it opened in Atlanta last year. Both exhibitions will be open until early June, so if you’re in the Chicago area, take the time to see them.
The deadline for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Rosenwald School Centennial Fund, a grant program designed to help community groups pay for the physical restoration of Rosenwald Schools, is rapidly approaching. First round applications are due April 15th. Projects will be awarded grants up to $20,000, provided they can raise matching funds through other sources. The Righteous Persons Foundation has given its generous support to this grant program.
If your project fits the grant guidelines, it’s not too late to apply. Click here for more information. The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s website has complete grant eligibility and application details.
Finding footage of someone who lived in the early twentieth century can be very difficult, even when the subject in question–Julius Rosenwald–was relatively well-known. As a result, as we conduct research for The Rosenwald Schools, every time we uncover a piece of film footage that contains Rosenwald himself we get excited.
Usually, we aren’t able to share these finds on our blog because of copyright issues, but the video embedded in this post is from film housed at the National Archives and falls into the public domain. Enjoy this tantalizingly short glimpse of Julius Rosenwald in 1929, shot in Clinton Township, Michigan. The film was made to document the Lights Golden Anniversary, a 50th anniversary celebration of Thomas Edison’s invention of the light bulb. Rosenwald was 67 when the film was shot – he would pass away a little more than 2 years later.
On Daufuskie Island, one of a chain of sea islands along the coast of South Carolina and Georgia, sits a one-room schoolhouse called the Jane Hamilton School. From the outside, it looks very much like a Rosenwald School, but it was actually fully funded by the immediate community and constructed by local tradesman as well as WPA workers. The Rosenwald Fund provided funding to over 5,000 schools across the south, but this historical building is an example of the many additional schools that were built not with Rosenwald Fund money but with Rosenwald School plans. Beyond providing architectural plans, the Rosenwald Fund’s school-building program served as a demonstration to all people that communities suffering under segregation could come together to improve local education facilities even if assistance from state and federal government was withheld.
The school was built on Daufuskie Island (near Savannah, Georgia) for the Gullah children of the island community. The Gullah people are the descendants of slaves from West and Central Africa whose language and culture incorporates influences from the African nations their ancestors lived in centuries ago. For many years, even into the twentieth century, this was a place that was somewhat cut off from the mainland (even today there is no road connection) and this isolation served to preserve the vibrant Gullah folk culture and language, especially after an influx of freed slaves moved to this region in the wake of the Civil War. Today, the Gullah culture is dispersing geographically to an extent (the Gullah population on sea islands like Daufuskie has declined) but there are local and national movements to preserve cultural landmarks like the Jane Hamilton School. A 1991 film, Daughters of the Dust, by Julie Dash, that tells an inter-generational story in a Gullah community around the turn of the twentieth century, introduced many people to the Gullah culture.
One aspect of the Rosenwald Schools that is often recalled by alumni is the large windows and the buildings’ orientation towards the sun (to maximize natural light). This style is clearly evident in the Jane Hamilton School: one side of the building is full of large windows (see the photo below) while the other side (see the above photo) utilized small “breeze windows,” placed high up to allow airflow to the classroom while blocking out the view of the street so children would not be distracted by passersby.
Today, the Jane Hamilton School serves as the Gullah Learning Center, a community center where elections are held, with historical exhibits about the school and the Gullah community and a library. The building (which dates from 1940, 8 years after Julius Rosenwald’s death) is a great example of historical preservation as well as a demonstration of the extended influence of the Rosenwald Fund even beyond the 5,000+ schools it directly funded.
By Michael Rose