Brundidge Library to host ‘Story of Rosenwald Schools’

Published 7:10 pm Tuesday, August 2, 2022

The Tupper Lightfoot Memorial Library will host “Ezra Wants To Know: The True Story of the Rosenwald Schools” at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Pike County High School Art Building at 552 South Main Street.

The program is free and open to the public.

Presenters will be Frye Gaillard, award-winning journalist, and Marti S. Rosner, teacher, academic coach and workshop leader.

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Karis Nicholson, library circulation clerk, said Rosenwald schools refer to a group of educational institutions established for African Americans in the first half of 20th century. The schools were named for Julius Rosenwald, president and later chairman of Sears Roebuck & Co. and creator of the philanthropic Rosenwald Fund, which provided matching funds for the schools

Nearly 400 schools and houses were constructed in Alabama and nearly 5,000 new schools were built in 15 southern states and Oklahoma, Missouri, Kentucky and Maryland between 1917 and 1932.

The largest number of Rosenwald schools, 813, was constructed in North Carolina and 450 in South Carolina.

Nicholson said Julius Rosenwald was one of several northern philanthropists in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who supported both elementary and higher education and teacher training for blacks. Rosenwald met Tuskegee Institute founder Booker T. Washington in 1911when Washington was the keynote speaker at a gathering of civic leaders in Chicago.  Rosenwald was impressed with Washington’s cause and soon signed on as a trustee of the Tuskegee Institute.

Rosenwald helped fund the building of six schools in Alabama with a $25,000 grant to Washington and Tuskegee, which served as the base of operations for the project. The first to open its doors was a frame building in Loachapoka in Lee County The other five were in Notasulga and Brownsville in Macon County, Chewacla in Lee County and Big Zion and Madison Park in Montgomery County.

800 Whitley St. MCTS (Mobile County Training School), is one of the last remaining active Rosenwald Schools.

The schools typically had a single teacher for all grades, and instruction generally focused on a basic curriculum of reading, writing, and arithmetic augmented by shop and vocational skills, including farming, gardening, dress making, and principals of personal hygiene.