National Trust bids farewell to visionaries

Photo Courtesy of National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust announced this month that they will be parting ways with Tracy Hayes and Katherine Carey; two people instrumental in the National Trust’s continued involvement with the preservation and support of the Rosenwald School network. It has been stressed that the departure of Tracy and Katherine should indicate no diminishment in the Trust’s continued support of the schools and their continued dedication to restoration and funding of Rosenwald schools. Under the leadership of these two women, the National Trust secured the Rosenwald school’s place on the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list, partnered with Fisk University in a massive archival effort to preserve Rosenwald artifacts, gathered 2.5 million of grant money for the school, and numerous other accomplishments to the betterment of Julius Rosenwald’s legacy.

Tracy was especially helpful in the making of the Rosenwald film. We hope that the movement to restore the schools continues. In our upcoming DVD release of the film, included will be four hours of extras and a whole section on the measures taken to restore Rosenwald schools.

Gene Wilder, The Frisco Kid and Rosenwald

The Ciesla Foundation mourns the passing of Gene Wilder on August 29. A masterful comedic actor with an infectious smile that wavered between mischievous and neurotic, Wilder kept us laughing while many of his movie roles took aim at prejudices based on race and religion. These include films with director Mel Brooks such as Blazing Saddles, The Producers and Young Frankenstein, which Wilder co-wrote with Brooks.

In the 1979 comedy-adventure, The Frisco Kid (directed by Robert Aldrich, The Dirty Dozen), Wilder plays an immigrant rabbi, Avram Belinski, traveling across the untamed United States to San Francisco. Three scenes from the film help tell the story of Rosenwald. In the first, Avram (Wilder) disembarking from the ship carrying him from Poland illustrates the arrival in the port of Baltimore of Samuel Rosenwald, Julius’ father, from Germany in 1851. Another scene of Avram walking brings to life Samuel’s early years here as a peddler while in another scene, the Frisco Kid’s wedding recalls that of Julius’ parents.

Some Rosenwald audience members have said that the film’s portrayal of the immigrant experience in the 1800s was so authentic that they wondered wheredirector Aviva Kempner got such wonderful original footage, not knowing or forgetting that these film scenes recreated a time before recording moving images was invented.

Click here to see some scenes from The Frisco Kid as we remember the wonderful work and life of Gene Wilder.

Remembering Julian Bond

On the first anniversary of Julian Bond’s passing, we at the Ciesla Foundation remember him fondly for his inspiration to make a film on Julius Rosenwald and his wise words in the film. There is not a day that goes by where his impact is not found in American society. His wisdom and humor are sorely missed.

-Aviva Kempner


High profile court cases have a way of capturing the collective attention of the public and dominating news cycles. Think Rodney King, OJ Simpson and Timothy McVeigh, to name a few vastly different circumstances and outcomes. However, despite their differences all these cases shaped — or in many cases brought to the forefront– a major national conversation that extended beyond the courthouse and throughout the nation. While the names listed above may be more familiar to us today, Leo Frank rang just as many bells in the mid 1910s. The quick story of Frank is that he was a young Jew from Brooklyn who relocated to Georgia and became the superintendent of a pencil factory where a young woman was murdered. Frank was quickly suspected, convicted on scant evidence, given a life sentence, then dragged from his cell by a mob and lynched from an oak tree in 1915. You can find a picture of his limp frame hanging from the branch while surrounded at knee level by stone faced white men defiantly staring into the camera, unmasked and indignant. The extrajudicial act was met with both fervent accolades and outrage. The Leo Frank trial and murder served as an indicator of the dripping antisemitism of the American South as well as economic insecurity throughout the region in the post Civil War era. Today, as groups such as the KKK and other fringe elements make more headlines than they have had in years it is highly important to remember past lessons.

The Rosenwald DVD will have an extra feature on Julius Rosenwald’s reaction to the Leo Frank trial and his support of the condemned. Rosenwald had every reason to be fearful of building the schools in the South after this case, but maybe because he was from the North he remained undeterred.

To read more about Leo Frank check out this article on The Tablet here.

Come see “A Lecture on the Life and Times of Julius Rosenwald”

“The Man – The Moments – The Movement”
Building an Educational Legacy in Anne Arundel County

Event Sponsored by:
Presented by:

You are invited to a free public lecture on the life and times of Mr. Julius Rosenwald. History’s foremost leaders in African American education include such celebrated names as Douglas, Washington, Du Bois, and The Little Rock Nine, but also the almost forgotten name of Rosenwald. Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932) amassed a fortune serving as president and part owner of Sears Roebuck Company. After becoming friends with famed Tuskegee educator, Booker T. Washington, Rosenwald established a fund to build new, state-of-the-art school buildings for African American children living in the rural South. Between 1917 and 1932, the Julius Rosenwald Fund was responsible for the construction of more than 5,000 new schools in states. In 1940, 23 of Anne Arundel County’s 32 black schools were Rosenwald buildings. The Rosenwald School Building Program advanced African American education in a level unmatched until Brown vs. Board of Education and the subsequent end of segregation.

Guest Speaker: Sherri Marsh Johns

Sherri Marsh Johns has more than 20 years of experience in the fields of architectural research and historic preservation. Her interest in Rosenwald Schools began with her work at Anne Arundel County, Department of Cultural Resources. While there, she researched the County’s Rosenwald Schools and was involved in restoring four of them. In 2006, she founded Retrospect Architectural Research, LLC a consulting firm specializing in historic preservation and cultural resource management issues. Ms. Johns enjoys volunteering her services to nonprofit organizations, and currently serves as executive director of the Smith Island Cultural Center, president of the Lost Towns Project, and is on the board of directors of the Anne Arundel County Trust for Preservation, Inc.

Great DOOR PRIZES and GIVEAWAYS in the name of Mr. Rosenwald.

RSVP to Lisa Craig, Historic Preservation Division Chief,
For more information, please contact Alderwoman Rhonda Pindell Charles at or
410-266-6857 / 410-266-5809
The Life and Times of Mr. Julius
Rosenwald is one in a series of lectures
scheduled for 2016 in celebration of
Preservation50,which recognizes the
50th Anniversary of the National Historic
Preservation Act of 1966, and is the
reason we have a federally-certified
historic preservation program in Annapolis.
Walter S. Mills-Parole Elementary School PTA
City of Annapolis, Department of Planing and Zoning, Historic
Preservation Division
Retrospect Architectural Research, LLC
Greater Parole Community Association, Historic Preservation
Committee, Co-Chairperson and Consultant, Mrs. Pearl C. Swann

Married for 64 years and still going strong

Marriage is difficult, complicated and, unfortunately, they often fail. But the failure of marriage is not a rule and many do last for the long run. David and Thelma Driskell have been married for an impressive 64 years *Applause*. They mention responsibility, dedication and an understanding that marriage isn’t all about romance as the keys to their duration. David is a world recognized leading authority on African American art. He is both a professor and an artist, has curated dozens of shows of his own work and other artists. If you would like to hear David speak, although on a different topic, he is interviewed in the Rosenwald film!

To read an interview with the Driskells in the Washington Post, click here.

Also, you can check out the David C. Driskell Center at UMDs website here.