New interviews for The Rosenwald Schools

Marian Anderson was one of the most beloved of the Rosenwald grant artists, so we knew we needed a great interview for the film with an expert on her life. We found that expert in Dr. Dwandalyn Reece, curator of Music and Performing Arts at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, who spoke to us a few weeks ago on January 30th. Reece gave us a good background on Anderson and spoke about the timeliness of her Rosenwald grant (you can read more about Anderson’s 1930 trip to Europe on a Rosenwald grant in a previous blog post). Especially poignant was Reece’s description of Anderson as a “reluctant icon.” Anderson became an icon of the period before Civil Rights when the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow her to perform at Constitution Hall in 1939 and Anderson instead gave a free concert on the National Mall in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

Newborn descendants of Julius Rosenwald take his name

Two of Julius Rosenwald’s grandchildren paid homage to the illustrious philanthropist by naming their new babies after him. Recently, Julius Kim Varet was born on January 16, 2014 in California. He would be the great-great grandson of Julius Rosenwald.

Julius Kim Varet

On January 15, 2012, Julius Cogburn Deutsch, was born in Washington, D.C. He would be a great-great-great grandson of Julius Rosenwald.

Julius Cogburn Deutsch

The Rosenwald Schools work in progress to screen in Takoma Park, MD

This Thursday, February 13th, The Rosenwald Schools filmmaker Aviva Kempner will join Stephanie Deutsch (author of You Need a Schoolhouse: Booker T. Washington, Julius Rosenwald, and the Building of Schools for the Segregated South) will join a group of alumni of the Takoma Park Colored School, a Rosenwald School that stood less than a mile from the District of Columbia on Geneva Avenue in Takoma Park. The event, which will include musical selections from the Takoma Park Community Band, a panel discussion, and a screening of Aviva Kempner’s documentary work in progress The Rosenwald Schools will take place at 7:30 on the Thursday at the Takoma Park Community Center Auditorium (7500 Maple Ave).

Click here to read a flier (PDF format) for the event. For more information on the historic school’s funding and layout, you can consult Fisk University’s excellent Rosenwald School database, which has an entry for the Takoma Park school and for 14 other Rosenwald Schools that were built in Montgomery County, MD.

Rosenwald School alumni in Tennessee look to draw attention to their old school

A report by a local news station in West Tennessee about a group of alumni from a Rosenwald School in Trenton, Tennessee caught our eye recently, and not just because our crew visited the state (to film at the Cairo Rosenwald School and to do research at Fisk University Special Collections) just last week. Our visit was a great success and will be the subject an upcoming blog post.

According to the report by WBBJ ABC 7, the alumni group has pushed for their alma mater, the Trenton Rosenwald School, to be included on the National Register of Historic Places for over a year. Although the story doesn’t explain why they have as yet been unsuccessful in their campaign for recognition from Tennessee’s Historic Preservation Office, it may be that they have hit a snag on the “integrity” portion of the National Register’s evaluation criteria. In order to be registered, a property should closely resemble its appearance during its period of significance. Judging between Google’s Street View of the property and two historical photographs, (one from Fisk University’s Rosenwald School database and one from the Tennessee State Archives website), its facade appears to be have been substantially altered some time since its construction in the late 1920s.

If anyone has more information about the alumni group’s efforts, please post a comment on our blog. Best of luck to the group in their campaign, as we know recognition of Rosenwald Schools on the National Register can both raise awareness about a community’s history and build momentum to preserve increasingly rare historic treasures.

The Rosenwald Schools work in progress to screen at upcoming D.C. event

The Historical Society of Washington D.C. presents “Visionaries of Early Black Education and Basketball: Julius Rosenwald and Dr. Edwin B. Henderson,” a special Black History Month event that will take place at the historic Carnegie Library (801 K Street NW) on Thursday, February 20th from 6:00 to 8:00 PM. A full flier (PDF format) is available here.

The evening promises a fascinating glimpse of the origins of basketball in the District. After Julius Rosenwald collaborated with Washington’s African American community to build a YMCA, Dr. Edwin B. Henderson (an influential physical educator) organized the new Y’s first basketball team. Henderson, who earned the moniker “the grandfather of black basketball,” is just one of the basketball greats connected with the YMCA: as we learned in an interview with Norris Dodson a year ago, John Thompson, Elgin Baylor and Dave Bing also graced its walls.

The 12th Street YMCA, Washington, D.C.
Photo credit: Michael Rose, March, 2012

We wrote about how Rosenwald came to support D.C.’s storied 12th Street YMCA in a previous blog post, and we have since shot interviews in the historic structure with local preservationists Lori Dodson and Norris Dodson. The modern building, built for the black residents of Washington, was the first of 24 YMCAs that Rosenwald supported with challenge grants between 1911 and 1933.

The program is co-sponsored by The Ciesla Foundation, the D.C. Basketball Institute, and the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. Get your tickets today ($10/HSW member; $15 non-member)!

Featured films clips include:

  • The Rosenwald Schools, a work in progress produced by Aviva Kempner
  • Basketball, More than a Game: the Story of Dr. Edwin B. Henderson, a short film produced by Beverly Lindsey-Johnson
  • Supreme Courts: How Washington DC Basketball Changed The World, trailer produced by Pennington Greene, John Ershek and Bijan C. Bayne

Panelists will include:

Moderated by: Bijan Bayne, author, Elgin Baylor: The First Superstar