TwHP Lessons

The Rosenwald Schools: Progressive Era Philanthropy in the Segregated South

Students at a Rosenwald School; South Carolina Department of Archives and History
(Rosenwald School students; S.C. Department of Archives & History)

he Pledge of Allegiance. The National Anthem. The teacher tells a story.

A school day in a Rosenwald School in the early 20th century was in many ways similar to school days today. But before they could start their day, this class of African American students in the segregated south walked to school. When they arrived, they had to sweep out the classroom, collect wood for the stove, and draw water from a well. The students were proud of their schoolhouse. Before it was built, some had attended classes in living rooms or front yards. Some had learned to read while sitting in a field or in church pews. But that was before their community built them a real school by donating labor, materials, and money to match a grant from the Rosenwald school building program.

The Rosenwald school building program was a Progressive Era program funded by philanthropist Julius Rosenwald. He partnered with African American educator and activist Booker T. Washington, first working with Washington's Tuskegee Institute and then forming an independent foundation to manage the school program. After meeting in 1912, the two men built thousands of schools for black students in 15 states. The Rosenwald Schools, as they are known, were often the first schools in a black community and helped improve education across the South.



About This Lesson

Getting Started: Inquiry Question

Setting the Stage: Historical Context

Locating the Site: Map
  1. Map 1: Julius Rosenwald Fund Schoolhouse Construction Map, 1932.

Determining the Facts: Readings

  1. Reading 1: The Progressive Era and the Rosenwald School Building Program.
  2. Reading 2: Building Practical Schools with the Rosenwald Program.
  3. Reading 3: Rosenwald Schools, Then and Now.

Visual Evidence: Images
  1. Drawing 1: Community School Plans, Bulletin No. 3, the Julius Rosenwald Fund. 1924.
  2. Photo 1: Pee Dee Rosenwald School, Marion County, South Carolina, c. 1935.
  3. Photo 2: Interior, Pine Grove Rosenwald School, Columbia, South Carolina, c. 1936.
  4. Photo 3: Spann Rosenwald School, Madison County, Tennessee, 1939.

Putting It All Together: Activities
  1. Activity 1: Rosenwald Schools, Yesterday and Today
  2. Activity 2: Apply for a Rosenwald School Grant!
  3. Activity 3: Research Progressive Era Leaders
  4. Activity 4: Discover History in Your Local Historic Places

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This lesson is based on the National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Documentation Forms for historic Rosenwald schools in Alabama, Maryland, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Texas. These are among the thousands of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.



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