Fact Friday 328: The Impact of Rosenwald Schools - Powered by the Charlotte Museum of History

Fact Friday 328: The Impact of Rosenwald Schools - Powered by the Charlotte Museum of History

Happy Friday!

The Rosenwald Fund is one of the most impactful moments of our history that you haven’t heard of: over a 30-year period, the Fund built almost 5,000 schools that educated a third of Black students in the South and helped narrow the education gap between white students and Black students. Rosenwald school alumni include Maya Angelou, John Lewis, members of the Little Rock Nine and many other Civil Rights advocates.

“A Better Life for Their Children, Photographs & Stories by Andrew Feiler” opens next Saturday, Feb 5 at the Museum.

Less than 500 Rosenwald schools still remain standing today and many of those are at risk of being demolished or simply being lost to time and decay. The Museum is hosting a new exhibit by photographer and author Andrew Feiler titled “A Better Life for Their Children: Julius Rosenwald, Booker T. Washington, and the 4,978 Schools that Changed America,” based on Feiler’s book of the same name that highlights the impact Rosenwald Schools had on the nation. The exhibit includes Andrew’s striking black-and-white photographs of schools across the South, in varying degrees of preservation, and stories of alumni, former teachers, preservationists, and community leaders. It opens next Saturday, February 5 – you can get tickets here.

Siloam School – Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. 1920s-1947.” Photo by Andrew Feiler. Andrew included Siloam School in his book because it looks essentially just as it did when it was built on the Rosenwald plans in the 1920s. The school faces North and uses large windows on the East face to maximize the natural light indoors, since there was no electric light (or heat) inside.

Siloam School, a 1920s school in Mallard Creek built on the Rosenwald model, is included in Feiler’s book and exhibit to represent the vast reach of the Rosenwald Fund. The fund provided financial support to communities who wished to build a school plus architectural plans and fundraising assistance. Anyone could request the architectural plans, which included detailed blueprints, instructions on lot selection, and even advice on paint color and window treatments to maximize the natural light inside the buildings. Siloam is one such school – the community did not use Rosenwald Funds, but took advantage of the free, technologically advanced architectural plans to build an updated schoolhouse for the children in their community.

The Museum, Silver Star Community, Inc., Aldersgate Retirement Community, and other community partners formed the Save Siloam School Project to relocate and restore the structure. More than $600,000 has been raised so far toward our $1 million goal! You can read more about the project efforts and our goals for 2022 at charlottemuseum.org/siloam.

I hope you’ll come to the Museum to check out ”A Better Life for Their Children” – it’ll be open until June 18. You can also visit our current exhibit “Siloam School,” about the Rosenwald Fund, George E. Davis, and the school’s history, and get access to a 360-degree virtual tour of the school as it stands now in Mallard Creek.

Until next week,

Angel Johnston

Charlotte Museum of History

About The Charlotte Museum of History

The Charlotte Museum of History exists to save and share the Charlotte region’s history, helping create a better understanding of the past and inspiring dialogue about the future. The museum is the steward of the 1774 Hezekiah Alexander Rock House and homesite, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the oldest home in Mecklenburg County. Visit charlottemuseum.org and follow the museum on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. The museum is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.


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“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass

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