The Rosenwald School building program played a prominent and pivotal role in the education of African Americans in the early 20th century. A result of a partnership between Booker T. Washington of Tuskegee Institute and Julius Rosenwald, President of Sears, Roebuck and Company, the Rosenwald Fund provided matching grants for more than 5,000 schools, shops, and teacher’s residences built in 15 southern states, between 1917 and 1932. The schools became obsolete in 1954 with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that outlawed segregation in public education. Many of the schools were abandoned or demolished and their invaluable contributions forgotten.
Despite their critical role in the education of a large portion of the southern population, Rosenwald Schools are a largely unfamiliar component of the educational history of the United States. As a consequence, the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) named Rosenwald Schools to its 2002 list of Most Endangered sites. More recently, Rosenwald Schools were designated as one of the first thirty-two of the National Trust’s “National Treasures.” A result of the restructuring of the National Trust, the campaign will eventually establish a portfolio of 100 National Treasures to preserve and protect, with the direct assistance of local preservation partners such as Preservation Maryland. For information on the National Trust Rosenwald Schools initiative, click here.
Of the more than 5,000 Rosenwald program buildings constructed, only 156 of the schools and ancillary structures were built in Maryland. However our state boasts a higher percentage than average of extant schools, with 53 currently surviving. Additionally, Maryland is one of the few states where a survey of the schools has been completed. A Multiple Property Documentation Form has been submitted with the expectation that Maryland’s Ridgeley Rosenwald School will be listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Preservation Maryland has previously supported projects at this site, as well as the Galesville Rosenwald School in Anne Arundel County and Wicomico County’s San Domingo Rosenwald School. All three sites have been successfully restored and are in active use by the communities in which they are located.
- Raise public awareness about Rosenwald Schools throughout the state of Maryland through site visits, blogs, and Facebook postings about individual schools
- Coordinate training workshops for local organizations interested in preserving Rosenwald Schools. Possible topics include organizational development, fundraising, and preservation practices
- Serve as a statewide online clearinghouse for information regarding Rosenwald Schools. If you have a personal story you would like to share or a school you would like assistance in saving, contact us or call Marilyn Benederet at 410-685-2886.
(Click photo for description)