HE FIRST BEGAN FUNDING OF THE ROSENWALD SCHOOLS IN 1913 WHEN THE FIRST SIX SCHOOLS WERE BUILT IN ALABAMA. SOME OF THE MONEY HE DONATED AIDED IN THE CONSTRUCTION OF OVER 5,000 SCHOOLS, TEACHER’S HOMES, AND SHOP BUILDINGS- BUT ONLY A FRACTION OF THEM ARE STILL AROUND TODAY. THIS PAGE AIMS TO DOCUMENT THE REMAINING ORIGINAL STRUCTURES – SOME OF WHICH ARE STILL IN USE, AND SOME WHICH HAVE BECOME HISTORIC LOCATIONS AND ARE BEING RESTORED.
If you have any information about a Rosenwald school or other structures, feel free to share it with us with the subject line, “Restoration”, at email@example.com
This letter is from the not-for-profit Alliance of Ethics & Art (AEA) whose mission is to educate the public about the cause and answer to racism explained by Aesthetic Realism, the philosophy founded in 1941 by the great educator and critic Eli Siegel. It was forwarded to us and is posted with permission from AEA’s director, Alice Bernstein. It tells a great story of Bishop Frederick James and his quest to restore his own Rosenwald school!
Our hearts go out to everyone in South Carolina enduring the terrible flooding and continuing rains, and we hope that all in need of assistance are receiving it–or will very soon. I’ve been trying to reach people by phone to say how much they mean to me and offer any encouragement I can. The Alliance has made many friends in South Carolina in the past 15 years– including unsung pioneers interviewed for “The Force of Ethics in Civil Rights” oral history project, and others in relation to our free educational performance event, “The People of Clarendon County”–A Play by Ossie Davis, & the Answer to Racism.
I want everyone to know what I’m so grateful I learned from Aesthetic Realism, that our hope to like reality–even under difficult circumstances–and to do all we honestly can to like reality, is our deepest desire and the most sensible way to take care of ourselves.
A poem which I care for is “Somewhere Along the Line,” by Eli Siegel, from his series of “Hope Poems.” In it, the world as known and unknown, logical and confusing, is given musical form that is graceful and matter-of-fact, true and comforting at once.
Somewhere Along the Line
by Eli Siegel
As we look in any direction,
We don’t know, but there may be some good thing
Somewhere along the line.
And now I’d like to tell you about something truly hopeful–a “good thing”–that happened in South Carolina in these recent days.
Bishop Frederick James & Prosperity’s Rosenwald School
When I finally reached Bishop Frederick James (now 93) in Columbia, I was relieved to hear that he and his wife are faring well. Then I gingerly asked how his dear, unfinished Rosenwald School building in Prosperity, SC had fared. Before I tell his answer, I’ll first give some history.
This school was one of 5,000 built in the South in the 1920s-30s to provide quality education to black children which the racist Jim Crow laws deprived them of. These ￼schools were the vision of Jewish businessman Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932), encouraged by educator and former slave Booker T. Washington, and built to improve the lives of black Americans, and would educate hundreds of thousands of children.
Frederick James attended the Prosperity Rosenwald school from 1st to 10th grade (1927-37), and his treasured education led to a life as a distinguished theologian and advocate for education, human and civil rights for people of all faiths and ethnicities–in the US and beyond. He marched with Dr. King, opposed the racist apartheid system in South Africa–and attended the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as that country’s first black president.
For 30 years he has dedicated himself to restoring and preserving the dilapidated building–originally one of the most beautiful of Rosenwald schools–so it may be a center of education, culture, and economic uplift for the entire community in the 21st century.
The Alliance was proud to partner with the Bishop in his decades-long effort to raise funds, by applying for a grant in his behalf, which would enable us to come to SC and produce our Clarendon County/Answer to Racism event as a fundraiser for the school. The Puffin Foundation, answered the call and sent a $1,000 grant for this purpose. And while our other grant-seeking efforts at the time didn’t pan out, Bishop James used the Puffin funds to further restore the building’s many large windows…
Hope Was “Somewhere along the line”
When I asked how his dear Rosenwald school had fared with the flood and rains, he said that because it was on high ground, it was not flooded. And he added, “I’d like to thank you for your role in helping to preserve those windows; it also led to helping our school building to withstand these great rains. I will be forever appreciative of that.”
And he continued, “That Puffin Foundation grant triggered other people to have faith enough to give large gifts–there is encouragement in numbers. I can’t talk enough about your role in this.”
Bishop James said further: “I’d like to say what’s in my heart. What this nation needs is
more caring across ethnic lines. I think our nation and the world needs what Eli Siegel, the great founder of Aesthetic Realism, the philosophy of life in America and the world, teaches. It’s certainly in harmony with the great religious scriptures and the heart of all faiths across this globe.”
We are proud to be a means of preserving history, some of which might never have become known, and of encouraging people everywhere to study Aesthetic Realism’s scientific, kind, and urgent explanation of the cause and answer to racism.
If you are in South Carolina, please reply to this email to let us know how you are doing. For updates, visit our website: www.Allianceofethicsandart.org
With best regards,
Alice Bernstein, Director
This letter was written by a fan in response to an article on Julius Rosenwald, published in the Greenbelt News Review, which you can read here. Read on for some great information about Julius Rosenwald and the Rosenwald schools!
“Some History on Rosenwald”
I appreciated and enjoyed last week’s Greenbelt News Review article, “There Is Some [Julius] Rosenwald Inside Every One of Us”, about the showing of the Rosenwald film, and the Q&A session that followed, at the Old Greenbelt Theatre.
Some of your readers may be interested to learn the following related information.
The local African-American communities appropriately felt ownership of the 5,300 “Rosenwald” schools; they put up a third of the money and provided the construction workers. This is how Rosenwald wanted it when he decided that he would be a minority partner by donating another third of the money. Having to comply with the “separate but equal” U.S. Supreme Court decision was an incentive for local school districts and states to provide the final third. (This is why I write “Rosenwald” schools, not Rosenwald schools.)
Also, Rosenwald was not one to put his name on buildings. He did not even put his name on the Museum of Science and Industry next to the University of Chicago, which he initially endowed. Now, it is the largest science museum in the western hemisphere. In 2009, it was the second largest cultural attraction in Chicago.
The Prince George’s County chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority spearheaded the campaign to restore the Ridgeley School, one of 27 Rosenwald funded schools in Prince George’s County, and they continue to volunteer there as tour guides.
Relatedly, the Prince George’s County Delta Alumnae Foundation will host the Delta Teacher Efficacy Campaign Town Hall on Saturday, October 3, at Prince George’s Community College.
Your reviewer noted that graduates of Lakeland Elementary near College Park, “were among 30 audience members who testified that they had been touched by one of the schools.” The Julius Rosenwald Fund also helped build Lakeland High School, which served as a cultural and social center for African-American families throughout northern Prince George’s County.
The establishment of AfricanAmerican Ys received a boost from a challenge and pledge in 1910 by Julius Rosenwald to donate $25,000 for the construction of a Y, to any African American community that would raise an additional $75,000. Again, local African American ownership of the Ys.
Over the next two decades, Rosenwald grants helped build 24 Ys. This was about half of the 51 African American Ys at that time.
The pilot building in Rosenwald’s YMCA-building program stands in the heart of the historic African American community around U Street NW in Washington, D.C.
There was also a YWCA in Washington that received a Rosenwald grant.
Query: What is $25,000 a century ago worth in today’s inflated dollars?
Answer. More than half a million dollars today.
Julian Bond (January 14, 1940 – August 15, 2015) deserves credit for inspiring and guiding the film’s producer and director, Aviva Kempner, in the making of the film. Bond helped to establish the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, one of the major civil rights organizations of the 1960s. Bond was elected to 10 terms in the Georgia state legislature. From 1998 to 2010, he was chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Your reviewer noted, “Kempner’s assertion that many young people are suffering from a serious deficit of historical knowledge.” I invite such readers to look up the organizations I just mentioned.
Do not think that I am a historian – I copied information from the web.
Hopewell – Rosenwald School Restoration Project
690 Highway 21 West
Cedar Creek, Texas 78612
Built in 1921-1922, the Hopewell – Rosenwald School in Cedar Creek, Texas (Bastrop County), was one of five in the county, and one of five hundred plus schools and accessory buildings built in Texas at the beginning of the 1900’s as part of the school building program. It was initially funded by a monetary and a land grant from Martin and Sophia MacDonald of Bastrop County, and was built by local residents to educate young African American children during the early to mid 1900’s, a time of segregation and limited resources committed to educating children of freedmen across Texas.