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Rosenwald Schools: Introduction

Book cover art for You Need a SchoolhouseFollowing the Civil War, the federal Freedmen's Bureau set up schools for black people throughout the South. However, the local communities and state governments typically were not supportive of efforts to educate newly freed black people. Because of this reality, black school children often learned with out-dated, hand-me-down books and supplies in rundown under-funded school buildings. In 1912, Booker T. Washington, founder of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, approached Chicago businessman and philanthropist, Julius Rosenwald, about a vision to build quality school buildings for black children from 1912-1932. 

The result was an initiative that would build more than 5,000 new schools in the rural South. 

Booker T. Washington

Book cover art for Up From History: The Life of Booker T. Washington

Booker T. Washington was born a slave in Virginia on April 5, 1856. Washington put himself through school, became a teacher and rose in prominence to become one of America's most influential educators and Civil Rights leaders. He was a graduate of Hampton Normal Agricultural Institute in Virginia, and in 1881, Washington founded the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama (now known as Tuskegee University). In 1912, Washington met with Julius Rosenwald to share a vision. The result of this meeting was an initiative that would build more than 5,000 new schools for black children in the rural South.

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Library of Congress Online Resources

PBS' The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow

Tuskegee University


The Rosenwald Schools: Work in Progress film available above

Source: RosenwaldSchoolsFilm


This guide originally was created for College of Coastal Georgia. Special thanks to CCGA librarians for allowing us to use this material.

Julius Rosenwald

Book cover art for Julius Rosenwald

Julius Rosenwald was born on August 12, 1862, to Jewish immigrants in Springfield, Ill. He was a business man and part-owner of Sears, Roebuck and Company in Chicago. Rosenwald also was known for his philanthropy, especially his role in building new state-of-the-art schoolhouses for African-American children in the rural South.


Image of an older Julius Rosenwald in a suit and hat.

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African-American Art

Rosenwald Schools Film

Springfield College