Washington and Rosenwald structured the program to engage the communities it benefited: rather than financing the entire construction project, Rosenwald provided partial funds—no more than half the total cost of the project—that had to be matched by the community and by a county school board appropriation. Grants were paid only after matching funds had been secured and construction had been approved. Community members could match the funding in money or in kind, by deeding over land for the project or contributing labor or materials.
The program, originally based in the extension department of the Tuskegee Institute, grew rapidly in its first five years. By 1917, the demand for grants had outstripped the capacity of the college to manage the far-flung venture—now serving fifteen southern states—so Rosenwald set up his own philanthropic foundation, the Julius Rosenwald Fund, to run the program. (Washington had died two years earlier, in 1915.) In 1920 he moved the operation to Nashville, Tennessee. There, employees of the program identified willing school officials, processed applications, and supervised school construction. Another philanthropic organization, John D. Rockefeller's General Education Board, paid for agents at the state level to secure commitments from county school officials and submit to Nashville annual wish lists of the numbers and types of schools desired. By 1928, one of every five schools for blacks in the South was a Rosenwald school.
Edwin Rogers Embree replaced an elderly, ailing Rosenwald as president of the Rosenwald Fund in 1928. At this time the fund was reorganized and shifted its focus to public health initiatives, leadership programs, and higher education. Embree discontinued the Rosenwald rural school building program in 1932, the year of Rosenwald's death. After 1954, when the United States Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education forbade racial segregation in public education, many counties closed their Rosenwald schools in the 1960s and 1970s as they began to integrate black and white students. Newer Rosenwald-assisted buildings—by then more than twenty years old—were sometimes incorporated into county desegregation plans or repurposed.
Rosenwald Schools in Virginia
The number of Rosenwald schools that exist in Virginia today is not known. Some have been renovated and restored to community use, such as Rappahannock County's Scrabble School, which reopened in May 2009 as a senior center. In 2002, the National Trust for Historic Preservation placed all Rosenwald schools in the United States on its list of most endangered historic buildings.
1912 - Julius Rosenwald agrees to allocate part of a larger donation to Booker T. Washington's Tuskegee Institute toward the construction of six schools for African Americans in rural Alabama.
1914 - Julius Rosenwald agrees to fund a larger program for constructing schools for African Americans in rural areas. The program operates out of the extension department of the Tuskegee Institute.
1915 - Architecture professors at the Tuskegee Institute develop a series of blueprints for the rural school building program.
1917 - Having outstripped the capacity of the Tuskegee Institute to manage the rural school building program, Julius Rosenwald sets up his own philanthropic foundation, the Julius Rosenwald Fund, to run the program. The foundation is based in Chicago, Illinois.
1920 - The Julius Rosenwald Fund moves its operations to an office in Nashville, Tennessee.
1920 - The Rosenwald Fund publishes a series of architectural plans by Samuel L. Smith under the title Community School Plans. The book also contains recommendations for paint colors, blackboard and desk placement, and school beautification.
1928 - Edwin Rogers Embree replaces an ailing Julius Rosenwald as the president of the Julius Rosenwald Fund. At this time, the foundation begins to shift its focus from rural school building to public health initiatives, leadership programs for African Americans, and higher education.
1932 - After the death of Julius Rosenwald, Edwin Rogers Embree, the president of the Rosenwald Fund, discontinues the rural school building program.
2002 - The National Trust for Historic Preservation places all Rosenwald-assisted schools on its list of most endangered historic buildings.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
McClure, P. Rosenwald Schools. (2016, September 13). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Rosenwald_Schools.
- MLA Citation:
McClure, Phyllis. "Rosenwald Schools." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 13 Sep. 2016. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: May 29, 2012 | Last modified: September 13, 2016
Contributed by Phyllis McClure, an independent researcher and writer.