Pop quiz: Rosenwald Schools

Rosenwald School

By: Kathy Witt

Q. What is a Rosenwald rural school?
A. One of roughly 5,000 state-of-the art schools built in African American communities across 15 Southern states from 1906 through 1932.

Q. What department store figures into the history of Rosenwald Schools?
A. Sears & Roebuck and Co.

Rosenwald school 2

Q. Where did the money come from to fund the schools?
A. Part-owner and CEO of Sears & Roebuck and Co. and Jewish philanthropist Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932) established the Julius Rosenwald Fund for the “well-being of mankind,” donating millions of dollars in his lifetime to relief agencies, scientific research, museums, colleges and universities and public schools, including what became known as the Rosenwald Schools.

Rosenwald School plans from HistorySouth

Q. What prominent and influential African American public speaker, advisor to multiple U.S. presidents, author and educator helped Rosenwald develop plans for the schools?
A. Booker T. Washington (1856-1915), founder of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama (now known as Tuskegee University).

Q. How is Julius Rosenwald connected to President Abraham Lincoln?
A. In 1868, Rosenwald’s family bought the Lyon House in Springfield, IL which stands on property Abraham Lincoln bought in 1838 and on which he constructed the only home he owned. The house is on the National Register of Historic Places and part of the Lincoln Home National Historic Site complex.Rosenwald Building

Q. What happened to the schools?
A. After a 1954 Supreme Court ruling declared segregation in education unconstitutional, Rosenwald Schools became obsolete, and many were abandoned or demolished.

Q. What do Rosenwald Schools have in common with a bunch of boats in Maryland?
A. Both the Chesapeake Bay Skipjack Fleet and Rosenwald Schools are on the National Trust’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list. Since 2002, the National Trust along with preservationists, local officials and concerned communities have been working to help raise awareness about Rosenwald Schools and this significant but little-known chapter of U.S. history.

 Chalkboard in Rosenwald School

Q. Where can I visit a Rosenwald School?
A. In the Scott County community of Sadieville, where a Rosenwald School was restored in 2011 and opened as a museum/cultural center. Visit by appointment by contacting the City of Sadieville at 502-857-4576.

See before and after pictures of the Sadieville Rosenwald School restoration here. Watch a “History In Your Own Backyard” video about Sadieville’s Rosenwald School here.

Sources: Sears & Roebuck and Co. Archives, Library of Congress, National Trust, HistorySouth.com.




Author: Kathryn Witt

Kathryn Witt is an award-winning travel and lifestyle writer, syndicated columnist and author of several books, including Secret Cincinnati, The Secret of the Belles and Atlanta Georgia: A Photographic Portrait. A member of SATW, Authors Guild and the Society of Children’s Books & Illustrators, she lives in northern Kentucky.








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