Kerry James Marshall Paints for Chicago. His Mural Should Stay There.

“The painter Kerry James Marshall was born in Alabama, but he is defined by Chicago: the city he moved to in 1987, and whose private salons and public housing projects have inspired an art of rare ambition. His excellent retrospective “Mastry,” which opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago in 2016 and traveled to New York and Los Angeles, introduced huge new audiences to his grand tableaus of black American life, steeped in art history and defined by the coal-black paint he uses in place of African-American skin tones.”

Read More:

‘It’s not right:’ Cumberland residents say planned landfill will disturb historic school, possible burial grounds

“CUMBERLAND — Just inside the front door of the 100-year-old Pine Grove School in Cumberland County’s small Cartersville community, the soft wood underfoot groans and gives under Muriel Branch’s steps.

“I walked three and a half miles to get here, each way, each day,” says Branch, sweeping her gaze around the one-room schoolhouse where she received her elementary education from 1949 to 1955. “Pine Grove School really means something to me.”

One of at least 360 Rosenwald Schools built in Virginia from 1917 to 1932, Pine Grove School was founded to better educate African-American students in Cumberland.”

Read more here:

The Cielsa Foundation Publishes Teaching Guide for Documentary Film Rosenwald

              Contact: Lianna Bright
Phone: (202) 362-5760


Washington, DC (July 16, 2018) – The Ciesla Foundation is pleased to announce the release of the Rosenwald Teaching Guide to accompany the DVD and bonus features of its latest film, Rosenwald. The film has screened nationwide at hundreds of film festivals and community events and was shown at the Obama White House.

 Rosenwald is a documentary on the incredible story of how businessman and philanthropist Julius Rosenwald joined with Booker T. Washington and African-American communities to build over 5,500 schools for educating African-American youth in the Jim Crow South. This historical partnership, as well as the modern-day attempts to maintain or reconfigure the schools, is a great dramatic story, yet too little known.

The film also highlights the impactful work of the Rosenwald Fund and its support of the arts, medical research, and equal access to housing. The teaching guide will help bring these inspiring stories into the classroom.

The teaching guide was developed in collaboration with Teaching for Change and was funded by the Righteous Persons Foundation. The educator-ready curriculum is designed for middle school, high school, college, and teacher education programs. Each lesson challenges students to think critically about the ability of individual citizens to create a more equitable world and to draw connections between the events of the past and their own lives.

“The Rosenwald film and its uplifting messages of unity across racial and cultural lines continues to inspire a new generation and to reinvigorate the spirit of cooperation and speaking out against injustice,” said director Aviva Kempner. “This teaching guide will help shape the future generation of leaders and change makers.”

The 101-page guide includes lessons, a viewing guide, and teachable subjects for educational use. It is available for free use by educators and can be downloaded via the Rosenwald website at It is intended for use with the Rosenwald DVD. To purchase the DVD, go to


About The Ciesla Foundation
Based in Washington, D.C., the Ciesla Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public, tax-exempt educational organization. Ciesla (pronounced CHESH-lä) produces documentaries that investigate non-stereotypical images of Jews in history and celebrates the untold stories of Jewish heroes. Ciesla was founded in 1979 by filmmaker Aviva Kempner, who serves as the director. Ciesla’s films have received numerous honors and awards, including a Peabody Award and top honors from the National Society of Film Critics, the New York Film Critics Circle, the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the CINE Golden Eagle Award.

A Joyful Celebration and Memorial for the life of Robert Francis Kennedy

June 6, 2018 marked the 50th anniversary of the death of Robert F. Kennedy. A service was held at Arlington National Cemetery in honor of his legacy. Aviva Kempner, who attended the memorial, noticed historical parallels mentioned at the service with topics in the Rosenwald documentary.

The event began with a musical prelude, “Life Every Voice and Sing,” written by James Weldon Johnson and often referred to as the “Black/African-American National Anthem” (and also served as inspiration for the sculptor Augusta Savage’s famous piece “The Harp”). Writer and poet James Weldon received several Rosenwald grants in the dates 1928, 1930, and 1931.

One of several notable speakers at the memorial as well as an interviewee in the Rosenwald film was Congressman John Lewis. Congressman Lewis read the words from one of Robert Kennedy’s speeches. In the film, Congressman Lewis spoke of his successes and positive work he’s done for the country, an inspirational achievement knowing his humble beginnings were in a Rosenwald school.

The memorial, filled with musical performances and meaningful testimonies by Kennedy’s daughter Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, community leaders, and other elected officials, was not only a beautiful tribute to Robert F. Kennedy, but also served as a celebration to inspire us to continue to persevere in the face of adversity and build a better world.

Langston Hughes Bonus Feature Screened At Bus Boys and Poets

On June 5, 2018 at 6:00 pm, the bonus feature “Langston Hughes: He was a poet who embraced the people” from the documentary Rosenwald was screened at Bus Boys and Poets on 14th and V St in Washington, DC. This popular hangout for food and thought is named after a true story about how Hughes was discovered.

Local activist and poet E. Ethelbert Miller and director Aviva Kempner joined the screening. Director Aviva Kempner had the pleasure of introducing the clip on Langston Hughes, spoke of her work on making the Rosenwald film and what an honor it is to pay tribute to the original busboy himself!

After the screening, E. Ethelbert Miller spoke about the leading events that happened to Langston Hughes prior to his receiving of the Rosenwald grant in 1931. Much like today, Ethelbert noted, it was all about connections and contacts. Langston associated with many affiliates of the NAACP who recommend he receive a grant from the Rosenwald Fund.

Ethelbert read an excerpt that Langston Hughes wrote, recalling his fond memories as a busboy and working at the Wardman Park hotel in Washington D.C., how the experience lead to him meeting the famous writer and poet Vachel Lindsay and slipping him three of his poems that would later lead to his discovery as a poet. Hughes had read in the newspaper that Lindsay would be staying at the Wardman hotel, whic shows how being up on the news can be helpful.

Ethelbert enlightened us on the breadth of work Langston Hughes produced throughout his life including “…poems, novels, short stories, memoirs, children’s books, plays, translations, opera librettos, anthologies, newspaper columns. He was so prolific that, in a 1956 letter, he complained about “a book due yesterday that I haven’t even started (2008, Dwight Garner).” Also, unknown to many, Langston also worked as a translator as he was fluent in Spanish and French. His most notable translation of Cuban poet and activist Nicolás Guillén’s, poems, titled Cuba Libre.

Post screening Aviva advised audience members to visit the room where Langston Hughes stayed during his time in Washington DC at the 12th Street YMCA (now the Thurgood Marshall Center) which is still on display for people to see.

All in all, it was a special evening to celebrate in the venue that commemorates the humble beginnings of a never-ending influence on American literature and culture, the poet for the people; Langston Hughes.


 “Dreams Deferred and Lived.” By Dwight Garner. The New York Times, The New York Times, 10 Jan. 2018,







Library of Congress Screens Rosenwald

In honor of Jewish American Heritage Month, the Cielsa Foundation, in conjunction with the office of Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, hosted a screening and reception of Rosenwald at the Library of Congress on Monday, May 21, 2018.

We were very excited to have had the opportunity to continue to share the story of philanthropist Julius Rosenwald and legacy of the Rosenwald Schools.

We were honored to have Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL), Congressman Danny Davis (IL), and Congressman G.K Butterfield (NC) share their personal stories which offered a unique perspective on the impact of Rosenwald and the Jewish American community. We were also very appreciative to have Congressman Hank Johnson (GA), whose mother attended a Rosenwald school, and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (TX) in attendance.

Debbie wasserman schultz

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (above)

Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz, the driving force behind the resolution that declared an annual Jewish American Heritage Month in May, shared her personal story of being a second generation Jewish American. She noted how incredible it is that even though her family has only been in America for two generations, she was elected to serve as Florida’s first Jewish Congresswoman. The Congresswoman also spoke of the Jewish teaching of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, which is embodied through her work and the work of Julius Rosenwald.


danny davis 1

Congressman Danny Davis (above)

The Rosenwald schools had great impact on Congressman Danny Davis of Chicago, who is interviewed in the film, recalled growing up in the South and hearing about the schools. Even though Congressman Danny Davis did not attend a Rosenwald school, he said that the influence of Rosenwald and the Sears organization was felt throughout his community once he moved North. The betterment Julius Rosenwald was able to provide for his community, whether by his schools or Sears catalogs, gave Davis hope and the inspiration needed to dream of something greater for himself and his community.



Congressman G.K. Butterfield (above)

Congressman G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina spoke of the impact Rosenwald had on the communities he represents. North Carolina is home to the most Rosenwald Schools of any southern state. Congressman Butterfield spoke earnestly about the Rosenwald schools where his own mother taught. He recalled attending a Rosenwald school alumni reunion in his hometown, where Viola Pittman Boone, 83, stood up and asked to recite “The Julius Rosenwald Song” that she recalled singing every morning as a young girl at her school, The Eden-Rosenwald Elementary School.

The Julius Rosenwald Song

(Composer unknown- the lyrics to this song are based on the memories of Viola Pittman Boone at age 83. She recalled that she and her 4th grade classmates sang this song each morning at the Eden-Rosenwald Elementary School and thinks it may have been composed by her teacher, Ms. Bland but cannot confirm. )

No one will ever know,

Just what his coming has been.

Because we loved him so,

It was something Heaven-send.

It was Julius Rosenwald,

Who would never let us fall.

He answered every call,

Of this dear race of ours.

 Director Aviva Kempner introduced the film and explained how hearing civil activist Julian Bond speak at Martha’s Vineyard 15 years back inspired her to make the film. She dedicated the showing to D.C. residents obtaining voting rights!


Audience LOC

Enter a cAudience members at Library of Congress Rosenwald Screening

We were incredibly honored and proud that during Jewish American Heritage month, we joined with both African American and Jewish elected congressional officials in the Library of Congress to celebrate Julius Rosenwald, continue Tikkun Olam and support one anothers communities.

Zora Neale Hurston’s book Barracoon: The story of the last “Black Cargo” Finally Published

 pic 2

Zora Neale Hurston, Rosenwald Fellow and author of Their Eyes Were Watching God, has a book being published eight decades after it was written.

pic 1.jpg

Barracoon: The story of the last “Black Cargo” tells the story of Cudjo Lewis, one of the last-known survivors of the Atlantic slave trade. Hurston interviewed 86-year old Lewis in 1927 in Alabama and recorded his account of the raid that led to his capture and bondage fifty years after the trans-Atlantic slave trade was outlawed in the U.S. In 1931 publishers wanted her to rewrite it in a language other than “dialect” and she refused.

The book includes a forward by author Alice Walker. Hurston earned an AA degree from Howard University in 1920, a BA from Barnard College in 1928.

One of the Rosenwald DVD Bonus Features, Rosenwald Fund Writers tells the story of African American writers like Zora Neale Hurston.

You can read more about Barracoon here:
Zora Neale Hurston’s ‘Barracoon’ Tells the Story of the Slave Trade’s Last Survivor

A Work by Zora Neale Hurston Will Finally Be Published

Library of Congress Screening of Rosenwald

In honor of Jewish American Heritage Month and in partnership with the Library of Congress.

You are Invited to a Screening of Rosenwald at the Library of Congress!


Monday, May 21, 2018 at 7:00 pm

Mumford Room (6th floor),
James Madison Memorial Building

 101 Independence Avenue, SE
(between 1st and 2nd Streets)

 Refreshments will be provided


We are honored to host this screening in cooperation
with Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz,
John Lewis, and Danny K. Davis, who will all share remarks.

 Rosenwald School alumni Congressmen John Lewis and
long-term Chicago resident Congressman Danny K. Davis
both appear in the film, and Congresswoman Wasserman
Schultz sponsored the legislation establishing Jewish
American Heritage Month in 2006.

Director Aviva Kempner
will offer commentary on the making the film.

Learn more about Rosenwald here: