Nat King Cole featured in new book

A new book, “Driving the King” by Ravi Howard, offers a glimpse into the struggles of the early civil rights movement through the eyes of Nat King Cole and his fictitious best friend, Nat Weary. Although the novel is set among the backdrop of real events, such as the Montgomery bus boycotts, the specifics of Mr. Cole’s experiences during the 1950s are admittedly made up. A reviewer in the New York Times points out, “But even this book’s distortions suggest a man whose story remains barely told, while few white singers of his day are without up-to-date biographers.” While Nat King Cole may be lacking the recognition an authentic biography affords, suggesting perhaps the racial barriers he faced in his career and reflected in the novel still linger today, his popularity is hardly forgotten. Timuel Black, an interviewee in The Rosenwald Schools, fondly remembers Nat King Cole as one of the many illustrious African American celebrities who visited the Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments. Cole is pictured in the film along with other Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartment visitors Langston Hughes and Marian Anderson.
Read more about the book here

Powerful new dramatic Civil Rights film to open on Christmas

Selma is a dramatic film about a courageous chapter of the Civil Rights movement in Alabama when Rev. Martin Luther King led the march for voting rights. Starring Giovanni Ribisi, David Oyelowo, Tim Roth, Oprah Winfrey and Cuba Gooding Jr., Selma will open this week in a limited theatrical run. I got a chance to see an advance screening of this powerful and moving film last night and I highly recommend you see it when it plays at a theater near you. The film includes the brave story of Civil Rights icon John Lewis, played by Stephan James, who risked his life fighting for Civil Rights in Selma in 1965 to obtain our most basic voting rights for African Americans.

Rep. Lewis was interviewed and will appear in our upcoming film The Rosenwald Schools.

Rosenwald fellow’s mural a touchstone in historical representation of the Amistad

The “Talladega Murals,” completed by future Rosenwald fellow Hale Woodruff in 1938, have been on tour since 2012 in galleries all over the country. This traveling exhibit is an amazing chance to see these great works, and we’ve reported on their progress here on this blog over the past couple years.

One of Woodruff’s mural on display in Washington D.C.
Photo credit: The Washington Post

Michael E. Ruane, writing for the Washington Post, recently reviewed the exhibit in its current location, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. The article, which includes quotes from National Museum of African American History and Culture experts like Jacquelyn D. Serwer and Kinshasha Holman Conwill (both of whom were interviewed for our upcoming documentary, The Rosenwald Schools), is well worth a read. Ruane tells the story of the Amistad slave ship revolt and explains how Woodruff’s paintings of it revived interest and became an important historical touchstone for representation of the unique and powerful event. As Conwill puts it in the article, the murals depict “the rarest of moments in 19th-century history […] the triumph of Africans over their enslavement that is a success.”

You can read more about the exhibit, Woodruff and the Amistad at the Washington Post.

Strong words from John Lewis on the “Other America” and from Charlene Drew Jarvis on the “narrative about race”

Rep. John Lewis of Georgia wrote about the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases in The Atlantic on Monday.

There is a growing discontent in this country. And if the fires of frustration and discontent continue to grow without redress, I fear for the future of this country. There will not be peace in America. I do not condone violence under any circumstance. It does not lead to lasting change. I do not condone either public rioting or state-sponsored terrorism. “True peace,” King would tell us, “is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”

Rep. John Lewis, who attended a Rosenwald School as a child, will appear in our upcoming documentary The Rosenwald Schools.

Rep. John Lewis during our 2013 interview with him
Photo credit: The Ciesla Foundation, September 2013

Charlene Drew Jarvis, the daughter of Rosenwald Fund fellow Dr. Charles Drew, also shared her insights on the troubling current events recently, in an address to the Metropolitan Chapter of the Links Inc. Here’s an excerpt of her speech, which was published in The Washington Post:

The narrative about race is changing. Witness the CBS national news just last night in which two young whites acknowledged that they never had to think about race as they went about their daily lives, but they understood that the African Americans on the panel think about race all-of-the-time. Their ability to empathize, to put themselves in the shoes of African Americans, is a very important part of better communication between the races.

Jarvis was also interviewed for The Rosenwald Schools on the Rosenwald Fund’s timely assistance of her father Dr. Drew’s graduate study and his later innovations in banked blood.

Charlene Drew Jarvis during our 2012 interview with her
Photo credit: The Ciesla Foundation, May 2012

Rosenwald Fund fellows Kenneth and Mamie Clark fought segregation

In November, The Rosenwald Schools work in progress screened in Sarasota, Florida. We blogged about the event, which was attended by Kate Harris, the daughter of two famous Rosenwald Fund grant recipients. Kate’s parents, Kenneth and Mamie Clark, were psychologists who worked together to provide evidence for the crucial case of Brown v. Board of Education.

Kate recently reached out to us through email. She understands the importance of the Rosenwald Fund grants, affirming that they “had a major impact on the education of generations of children… just as the Rosenwald Schools did.” Kate also sent these great photos of her parents over the years:


Photos courtesy of Kate Harris