Rosenwald Schools

In the 1910s, Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932) donated money to help Booker T. Washington fund six African-American schools in Alabama. The project was a success and soon thereafter Rosenwald (born to a Jewish family that had immigrated from Germany and later, co-owner of the Sears & Roebuck company) created the “Julius Rosenwald Fund” for African-American schools in the south. The goal of the project was to build new and innovative school houses (using, in part, Sears & Roebuck building kits). Rosenwald included a caveat, the entire community had to contribute money and labor to build the school and furnish it. During the 15 years of the fund’s existence (1917-1932), the Rosenwald fund helped finance 4,977 new schools, 217 teachers’ homes, and 163 shop buildings. In some communities these schools were the first formal school house, in others they replaced dilapidated and unsafe structures. In each case, this program encouraged communities to contribute to the construction of their school.

Greenwood School (Image from the Fisk Collections)

Here in Albemarle County almost a dozen Rosenwald schools were built. They were built between 1921 and 1926. Today, only a handful remain standing. Most of the schools sat on several acres and cost between $2000 and $3000. Here in Albemarle, the Rosenwald fund contributed about 30% of the total cost, the African-American community about 20%, and the remainder was given by “whites” and “the public” (categories used by the fund in identifying donors). The schools were classified based on the number of teachers who taught in the building. In Greenwood they built a “two teacher” school (seen in the photo; Courtesy of the Fisk Collections). These schools continued to be used until desegregation.

If you attended a Rosenwald School or have more information about Albemarle County Rosenwald Schools (or others in central Virginia) please contribute a comment below or contact me directly (lynn[at] Here in Albemarle several members of the community have begun a project to research the history of these schools.[](