History of the Rosenwald School Program


The Rosenwald rural school building program was a major effort to improve the quality of public education for African Americans in the early twentieth-century South.

In 1912, Julius Rosenwald gave Booker T. Washington permission to use some of the money he had donated to Tuskegee Institute for the construction of six small schools in rural Alabama, which were constructed and opened in 1913 and 1914. Pleased with the results, Rosenwald then agreed to fund a larger program for schoolhouse construction based at Tuskegee.

In 1917 he set up the Julius Rosenwald Fund, a Chicago-based philanthropic foundation, and in 1920 the Rosenwald Fund established an independent office for the school building program in Nashville, Tennessee. By 1928, one in every five rural schools for black students in the South was a Rosenwald school, and these schools housed one third of the region's rural black schoolchildren and teachers.

At the program's conclusion in 1932, it had produced 4,977 new schools, 217 teachers' homes, and 163 shop buildings, constructed at a total cost of $28,408,520 to serve 663,615 students in 883 counties of 15 states.

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 Booker T. Washington and Rural Schools

Booker T. Washington

Credit: Library of Congress

In the turmoil after the Civil War, African Americans sought out educational opportunities at schools opened by the Freedman’s Bureau, the American Missionary Association, and African Americans themselves. Eventually the task fell to local counties and municipalities, who were often mandated by state constitutions to provide one school system for whites and one for African Americans. In 1896 the Supreme Court decision Plessy v. Ferguson upheld “separate but equal” railroad cars, which set a precedent for the segregation of public facilities, including schools. Unfortunately, they were not equal; by the early 20th century most schools for African Americans were underfunded and in serious disrepair. Black children learned in dilapidated buildings with few amenities other than makeshift desks and benches. Many counties refused to provide public school buildings at all. African American children learned in churches, lodge halls, and other private buildings.

Booker T. Washington, principal of Tuskegee Institute, sought to change all that with his rural school program. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Washington preached a gospel of self help for black southerners, emphasizing economic advancement through “industrial” (vocational) education without challenging racial segregation and the disenfranchisement of black voters. Critics such as W.E.B. Du Bois and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People called for a direct challenge to segregation. Washington attracted support from black and white Americans who agreed that economic and educational needs should be addressed first and feared that a more confrontational approach would unleash a white backlash. 

Washington’s overarching goal for southern African Americans was to ensure access to quality educational opportunities. To meet this end, he devised a strategy to provide children with safe, purpose-built, school buildings. Washington planned to organize black school patrons to buy land and build schools that would then be turned over to local school authorities. These schools would feature a Tuskegee-style industrial curriculum combining basic literacy and numeracy skills with agricultural and trades programs for boys and home economics for girls. Knowing most communities could not afford these projects, Washington turned to the white philanthropists who supported Tuskegee Institute.

In 1912 Washington approached Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears, Roebuck and Company and a new member of Tuskegee’s board of trustees, with his idea about building schools for black children in the rural South. Rosenwald had already shown interest in supporting building programs by offering matching grants for the construction of African American YMCAs. He was fascinated by Booker T. Washington and agreed wholeheartedly with Washington’s philosophy of self-help and industrial education.

The same year, Rosenwald celebrated his 50th birthday by distributing gifts to a number of causes, including $25,000 to Tuskegee for African American teacher-training institutions. Washington gained Rosenwald’s permission to use some of that money for six experimental rural schools. With a shared faith in the power of self-help, Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald insisted on local contributions for these experimental schools, rather than full public or philanthropic funding, as they would with Rosenwald schools. They believed that sacrifices of hard-earned cash, materials, and labor would strengthen African Americans’ commitment to their communities. The self-help requirement made African Americans the driving force behind the Rosenwald program and the arbiters of its meaning for southern communities. This grassroots support was a critical ingredient for the success of the Rosenwald school building program to come.
The original Rosenwald schools were built in Alabama and included Notasulga and Brownsville in Macon County, Loachapoka in Lee County, and Big Zion, Little Zion and Madison Park in Montgomery County. Each received about $300 toward construction costs. Rosenwald’s next step was a $30,000 gift in 1914 for construction of 100 rural schools, followed by gifts for up to 200 schools in 1916, each of which could obtain a maximum grant of $300.

Rosenwald and Washington worked together to alleviate the problems of African American rural education until November 15, 1915, when Washington died. He was in New York when his final illness struck. He is reputed to have said, “I was born in the South, have lived all my life in the South, and expect to die in the South.” He left New York for Tuskegee, arriving eight hours later. Four hours after that he was dead.

Tributes and condolences came from all over the country, including from William H. Taft, Andrew Carnegie, and John D. Rockefeller. Julius Rosenwald wrote to Washington’s widow, “My heart is too sad to attempt words of consolation for you in your and our country’s great loss. One of our noblest and foremost citizens has passed to his reward. The service he has rendered his fellow men will live forever.

Tuskegee Plans, 1912-1920

After Washington’s death, Julius Rosenwald continued to work with Tuskegee. Margaret Murray (Mrs. Booker T.) Washington oversaw the construction program, and Clinton J. Calloway, director of Tuskegee’s Division of Extension, coordinated the applications and grants for schools. In 1912 Robert R. Taylor, director of the mechanical industries program and staff architect for Tuskegee, developed the initial Rosenwald building plans which appeared in the Institute’s 1915 publication, The Negro Rural School and Its Relation to the Community.

The Negro Rural School featured three building types: a one-teacher school, a central (consolidated) school, and a county training school. These schools are easily distinguished from later Rosenwald designs. They feature hipped and clipped-gable rooflines and central entrances protected by projecting gable or shed porch roofs. The batteries of windows that provide the major light source for instructional rooms group five to seven double-hung windows, and pairs of these windows pierce the other sides of the building as well. Reflecting the Tuskegee-style curriculum intended for these schools, the plans include space for industrial education, most often providing a smaller classroom for girls’ domestic science work as part of the school building and locating boys’ vocational work in a separate shop building.

Tuskegee’s plans also introduced many features that would be repeated in later Rosenwald schools. The smallest design was for a one-teacher school, but it was not a one-room school. Throughout the rest of its existence, the Rosenwald program would continue to classify its buildings by the number of teachers, rather than the number of rooms, to emphasize that its schools provided workrooms, cloakrooms, and, in larger schools, auditoriums and offices as well. Thus the one-teacher school included a classroom for academic instruction, a smaller industrial classroom, a kitchen, a library, and cloakrooms.    

Lighting and ventilation, two critical aspects of progressive school design, also received attention from the start. Tuskegee designs grouped windows into “batteries” to maximize the effect of natural light in the interior and raised the building on short piers for ventilation and moisture control. Progressive educators believed that schools should serve as community centers and that small rural schools should be consolidated into single larger facilities, in part to support an expanded curriculum, but also to create a sense of community between neighboring districts. Even the one-teacher school plan called for folding doors between the workroom and classroom that could be opened to create a larger space for special events and provided for a future classroom addition.

The larger central school plan included a school building, a separate industrial building for blacksmithing and carpentry, and a teacher’s home within a larger site that included practice farm plots. Tuskegee provided two alternative floor plans for one- and two-story structures. 

Reorganization of the Building Program, 1919

By 1919 the Rosenwald building program had overwhelmed the administrators at Tuskegee, and Julius Rosenwald undertook a review of the program’s operation. He hired Fletcher B. Dresslar, professor of school hygiene and architecture at Nashville’s George Peabody College for Teachers, to assess the Tuskegee plans and structures. In his 1920 Report on the Rosenwald School Buildings, Dresslar lambasted the structures that he had inspected. The Tuskegee plans were adequate but did not meet Dresslar’s standards for lighting, ventilation, and sanitation. Worse yet, county school officials and contractors altered the plans and bought cheap materials to stretch construction dollars further. When local citizens did the work, they often were not skilled carpenters and had little or no supervision, so they made mistakes in interpreting the plans. Dresslar recommended that the Rosenwald Fund require more on-site supervision and complete adherence to its designs as conditions of financial assistance. He also called for new plans that would better address his concerns for lighting and ventilation and allow for an auditorium and future classroom additions.

At the same time, an audit of the Rosenwald program’s financial records at Tuskegee revealed mistakes caused by lack of oversight and the crush of work pressing on staff members. Furthermore, some white state and county officials complained about having to participate in a program run by black administrators.

Julius Rosenwald responded by placing his school building project under the auspices of the philanthropic foundation he had created in 1917, the Julius Rosenwald Fund. Julius Rosenwald believed that philanthropies should use their grants as seed money to encourage individuals and public agencies to take responsibility for needed programs and services in their communities. He saw the Rosenwald school program as an incentive for southern states to meet their responsibility for educating black children. Rosenwald disapproved of perpetual trusts, because he did not think that they could respond properly to the unknown needs of the future. Thus he directed the Rosenwald Fund’s officers to expend its assets to meet its goals in their present time. A small staff based in Chicago, headed up first by Francis W. Shepardson and then by Alfred K. Stern, directed the Rosenwald Fund’s early operations.

Samuel L. Smith, formerly Tennessee’s Negro school agent, became the director of the Rosenwald Fund’s new Southern Office in Nashville in 1920. Now the goal was to construct model rural schools. The Fund required that grant recipients meet specific minimum standards for the site size and length of school term, and have new blackboards and desks for each classroom, as well as two sanitary privies. School grants were based on the number of teachers employed, ranging from $500 for a one-teacher building to a maximum $2,100 for a school for ten or more teachers.  From 1921 to 1931, the Fund also offered grants of $200 per classroom for additions to existing Rosenwald schools.

African Americans had to contribute cash and in-kind donations of material labor to match the Rosenwald grant, but they often did much more. Local African American leaders initiated building campaigns, wrote to state education departments, Tuskegee Institute, and the Rosenwald Fund for information, lobbied county superintendents and school boards for additional fundraising, and recruited their fellow citizens’ support. School patrons organized themselves into committees to find and buy land, to cut trees and saw the lumber for the school, and to haul the building materials to the school site. Patrons sometimes even built the school themselves. Those who pledged contributions of money and labor included rural wage earners such as sawmill and domestic workers, farm owners and tenants, and the members of church congregations and fraternal lodges. Some donated a day’s pay or the proceeds of an acre of cotton; others sold chickens. School rallies, community picnics, and entertainments brought in cash as well. The result was a school building that stood as a tangible expression of a community’s determination to provide a decent education for its children.

Although the Rosenwald program emphasized that its schools received additional contributions from “white friends,” overall the personal contributions by white southerners constituted the smallest category of support for Rosenwald schools. The largest source of funding was from tax revenues. The county school board was required to provide public support, take ownership of the new school property, and commit to maintaining it as part of the public school system. From 1920 to 1928, between 400 and 500 schools were built annually, with the Fund’s aid totaling from $356,000 to $414,000 each year.

Community School Plans, 1920-1928

Dresslar and Smith prepared the plans that would become the archetypal Rosenwald schools of the 1920s and early 1930s. The Rosenwald Fund published the designs, titled Community School Plans, repeatedly from 1920 until 1931. Some of the community school plans incorporated and upgraded earlier Tuskegee designs, and others reflected contemporary school designs for white rural schools and the plans that Dresslar and Smith had previously collaborated on for the Tennessee Department of Education. The community school plans also eliminated some features of the earlier Tuskegee designs; gable roofs replaced the hipped and clipped-gable rooflines, and the plans were exclusively for one-story structures.    

Dresslar and Smith were especially concerned about lighting and the conservation of children’s eyesight. Accordingly, they limited windows to one side of the classroom to reduce eyestrain by ensuring that a single stream of light falling from left to right would illuminated the blackboard and desks. In addition, the plans maximized natural light by using narrower window framing in the sashes and much taller windows that stretched from the interior wainscot cap up to the eaves. Another of Dresslar’s concerns was ventilation. “Breeze” windows set high under the eaves or on interior walls provided cross ventilation by pulling air from the windows across the room and into a hallway or adjacent classroom. In addition to sliding doors and removable blackboards to open up interior space, designs for larger schools published in the Community School Plans included auditoriums for school and community events.

Rosenwald schools also had their own color schemes and requirements for interior appointments. Especially in the early years of the building program, school facades were often painted with a nut brown or “bungalow” stain and white trim; white with gray trim and light gray with white trim were also recommended. Interior paint schemes employed bands of color to accentuate the effect of the battery windows on light levels and students’ vision. Walnut or oak-stained wainscoting ran along the lower section of classroom walls, surmounted by gray or buff painted walls and light cream or ivory ceilings. The resulting horizontal bands of color reflected and intensified natural light entering from the windows set above the wainscot, while the darker wainscot minimized glare at desk level for seated pupils. Light tan and translucent window shades also aided in controlling light levels.

School equipment received the same careful scrutiny to ensure that the building would have the greatest impact on its occupants. Blackboards lined three walls. Modern patent desks (standard school issue desks) replaced the rough wooden slabs, pews, and benches typical of many other black schools. Often African American community members found it difficult to pay for patent desks in addition to their contribution to the building and asked to be relieved of this burden. White school officials would have preferred to transfer used furnishings from white schools over to black ones. However, the Rosenwald Fund remained firm and refused to make final payment on buildings that did not meet its standards for the exterior or interior.

Schools built according to the community school plans are the most easily recognized Rosenwald schools. Rosenwald building facades generally were as simple as possible, limiting decorative details to a bare minimum. Simplicity was a key progressive design concept denoting order, rationality, and functionalism. It also served to make these buildings more affordable, more modern in appearance when compared to the vernacular buildings they replaced, and modest in comparison with white schools.

Shops and Teachers’ Homes

From the beginning Washington and Rosenwald envisioned campuses that functioned as gathering places for the community. In smaller schools, people pushed aside movable partitions between classrooms or raised blackboards to create openings between the rooms so that they could gather together. Larger schools had auditoriums and gymnasiums. In addition to school plays, competitive sporting events, student socials, and graduation ceremonies, Rosenwald schools also opened their doors to the community for speeches, public meetings, and entertainments such as magic shows, movies, and dramatic performances. They offered practical instruction that attracted not only students but parents too.

Although Tuskegee Institute had distributed plans for teachers’ homes and shops, these structures were not part of the Rosenwald building program in the early years. However, local school boards resisted spending additional funds for these facilities and, beginning in 1920, the Fund offered to pay 50 percent of the cost of a teacher’s home at schools with at least an eight-month school term. Initially the grant could run as much as $1,000, but in 1922 the Fund scaled its maximum award back to $900.

Shops provided a space for industrial education. The industrial education requirement was embraced by some black and many white educational reformers and philanthropists as a “safe” strategy for improving public education for black children. Industrial education assured white southerners that the existing racial hierarchy would remain intact, but with a more contented and better-skilled black work force. For some African Americans, it was simply a strategy for buying white support to secure better academic programs for black schools.

In 1927 Fund officials sanctioned grants of between $200 and $400 for shops if built according to Rosenwald plans, fully equipped, and properly staffed.

Privies and Well Houses

Improved sanitation for better health was a major concern of all the Rosenwald school planners, at a time when few rural schools boasted any sort of toilets. Tuskegee’s Negro Rural School publication included illustrations of well houses to keep the water supply secure and clean, and both bucket and pit privies. Community School Plans likewise included plans for pit privies that could accommodate several students and had tall screens protecting the entrances for privacy. The 1931 Community School Plans did include provisions for indoor plumbing, although the planners acknowledged that pit privies would remain essential for schools without a piped water supply.

Rosenwald Schools Using Other Plans

Not all Rosenwald schools followed the Tuskegee or community school plans. To qualify for funding, the Rosenwald program only required an “approved plan.”  Some schools followed designs developed by state departments of education. In South Carolina numerous schools were built according to plans developed by R.E. Lee at the Clemson Agricultural College (now Clemson University). Others probably copied plans developed by architects for other schools, or commissioned their own.

Some atypical Rosenwald schools are large, two- and three-story buildings located in cities, rather than the one-story structures usually found in rural neighborhoods. They received Rosenwald aid because they served as the only secondary schools for African Americans in a given county, and were sponsored by county rather than city school boards. In 1929 the Julius Rosenwald Fund adopted a policy that allowed towns to apply for construction grants to build schools that offered at least two years of high school and vocational instruction for both genders, further accelerating the trend toward larger schools. As a result, the program changed its name from the rural school program to the southern school program.

The Rosenwald School in the Landscape

One of the reasons that the Rosenwald program required a minimum two-acre site was to create a  landscape with the school as its focal point, ideally surrounded by the shop and teachers’ home as well as a playground, practice garden, well, and privies. Practice garden and farm plots supported the industrial training offered at Rosenwald schools, and also modeled proper landscaping for rural homes. Tuskegee’s Negro Rural School publication recommended adding flowering plants, fences, and lawns. Community School Plans included advice on walkways, lawns, shrubs, and trees. Even after the Rosenwald building program ended, the landscapes that it had created still concerned the officials of the Julius Rosenwald Fund. S. L. Smith published two bulletins in 1936 that addressed the needs of African American schools but could also apply to all rural schools: Improvement and Beautification of Rural Schools and Suggestions for Landscaping Rural Schools. Thus, documenting and preserving a Rosenwald school may not be limited to a single structure, but include a range of site features that make up the Rosenwald school landscape.

Just as important as the Rosenwald program’s planned buildings and landscapes is the way that Rosenwald schools fit into existing African American landscapes. Sometimes the Rosenwald buildings were “open-country” schools in an agricultural setting of fields, fences, hedges, and woods close to the places where parents worked. In many more instances, the Rosenwald school sat adjacent to or near a church. The congregation may have spearheaded the local building campaign or donated the land. Rosenwald schools located in towns and cities are part of larger African American built environments that may include churches, cemeteries, lodge buildings, and funeral homes, as well as residential structures. Furthermore, a Rosenwald school may be located on the site of an earlier African American school that dates as far back as the 1860s. These schools represent a tradition of African American education since the Reconstruction era as much as they exemplify the innovations of progressive school design. The preservation of a Rosenwald building is not complete without a full consideration of its context in the landscapes of African American life in the early 20th-century South.

Expanding Grant Opportunities

Although construction grants remained the heart of the Rosenwald school program, the Rosenwald Fund added other school-related grant opportunities. Insistence on a minimum school term as a requirement for construction grants led to matching grants for term extension. Recognizing that county boards of education did not pay for adequate classroom materials, the Rosenwald Fund subsidized low-cost school libraries, offering sets of carefully chosen works that include positive accounts of African American history and culture. First offered to selected Rosenwald schools in 1927, Rosenwald libraries were later made available to any African American school and rural white schools as well.

Rosenwald radios, made available at special rates beginning in 1929, brought the news and culture of the nation into rural black schools and provided a source of information and entertainment that could be shared with community members. Starting in 1929 the Rosenwald Fund offered to pay for buses to transport students to consolidated schools as an incentive for school boards to extend this service permanently.

School and community pride were the goals of Rosenwald School Days, which began in 1927 and were celebrated annually well into the 1930s. Teachers, principals, students, and parents would gather at their schools on a designated day to clean, repair, and paint the buildings, improve the grounds, and contribute money for other projects, as well as enjoy a program of songs and speeches.

Industrial Education in the 1920s

In the 1920s, the Rosenwald Fund attempted to reinvigorate the concept of industrial education. It encouraged the construction of urban industrial high schools that would offer modern trades education to black youth in work already identified with African American laborers. However, only five urban industrial high schools were constructed. Most of the cities that applied for this aid eventually opted for a smaller grant applied toward an industrial department within a regular high school rather than building new costly trades schools. The Fund stopped accepting applications for this unsuccessful experiment in 1930.

By the end of the 1920s, Fund officials had become convinced that their designs needed updating. They hired Walter McCornack, a prominent school architect from Cleveland, Ohio, to review the community school plans as well as plans submitted for industrial high schools. Some of the resulting proposals for larger buildings included more elaborate detailing, such as lanterns, meant to invoke the South’s colonial Georgian architectural heritage. Fund officials rejected what they called “belfries” and “frills,” however, and the schools maintained their restrained styling.

Changing Directions, 1928-32

The rural school building program’s diversified offerings matched Julius Rosenwald’s and his foundation’s growing interest in developing a more comprehensive approach to the problems faced by African Americans. In 1928 Rosenwald embarked on a major reorganization of the Julius Rosenwald Fund. Edwin R. Embree, formerly of the Rockefeller Foundation, became president under an expanded board of trustees. Embree began scaling back the school building program and shifting the Fund into a broad array of projects in rural and higher education, public health, and race relations.   

At the same time, the Fund began to decrease aid to small schools. Since 1928, the Rosenwald Fund had offered a 50 percent increase in aid for “permanent” (generally brick) construction, which tended to favor the large plans. A similar incentive went to school buildings in “backward” counties, where African Americans made up less than 5 percent (after 1931, 10 percent) of the population and no Rosenwald building had yet been constructed, to attract counties that had not yet responded to the program. Meanwhile, grant amounts for schools with up to six teachers had been cut in 1927 to encourage larger consolidated elementary and secondary schools. Aid to one-teacher buildings, which had been cut from $500 to $200, ended completely in 1930, and grants for two-teacher buildings and additions to existing Rosenwald schools stopped in 1931.

The School Building Program Draws to a Close

In 1932 the Rosenwald Fund staff and trustees started winding down the school construction grants. The decision to move away from the building program was based on the Rosenwald Fund’s philosophy and changing priorities. Rosenwald, Embree, and the board of trustees felt that if they continued construction grants indefinitely, southern school boards would remain dependent on Rosenwald aid and contributions from local African Americans and continue to shirk their full responsibility for black education. They also wanted to redirect their resources. The stock market crash and the ensuing Great Depression wiped out much of the value of the Sears, Roebuck stock that supported the Rosenwald Fund, increasing the pressure to abandon the building program.   

In 1932 the Rosenwald Fund announced that no further construction grants would be forthcoming. One last Rosenwald school was constructed in 1937 in Warm Springs, Ga., at the behest of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Southern Office closed at the end of 1937. Eleven years later, the Julius Rosenwald Fund distributed its last grants and went out of existence, just as its founder had intended.

The Legacy of Rosenwald Schools—Washington’s Vision Realized

Rosenwald schools served generations of teachers, students, parents, and other community members.  Rosenwald alumni recalled hard work, discipline, and community-oriented activities. Boys often began fall and winter school days pumping water and building fires. Girls and boys helped the teacher clean the school and maintain the grounds. Recollections about teachers and classroom activities emphasize strict standards of personal deportment and attention to their studies, as well as the fun children had sharing lunches and playing sports. Former Rosenwald students described the positive life lessons parents and teachers instilled in them, but resented that white authorities continued to pay little attention to the needs of black children, sending them cast-off textbooks and equipment from the white schools and offering few or no secondary grades for them to continue their education. Nonetheless, Rosenwald Schools educated a new generation of black leaders.

The building plans have their own architectural legacy. Fletcher Dresslar, Samuel Smith, and other state education officials made Rosenwald schools the nucleus of a movement to reform all southern school architecture. They created the Interstate School Building Service (ISBS) in 1928 with financial support from the Julius Rosenwald Fund. Rosenwald school plans, and other school designs based on them, appear throughout the ISBS school plan book, For Better Schoolhouses, published in 1929. Even after the Rosenwald school building program ended in 1932, the Rosenwald Fund and the ISBS kept reprinting and distributing the plans. Consequently, during the Great Depression, when the federal government made funds available for school construction under the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and New Deal agencies like Works Projects Administration, many southern communities built with the now familiar Rosenwald designs.

Another sort of legacy is the school that still carries the Rosenwald name but on a new structure. In the late 1940s and 1950s, southern states undertook massive school building campaigns in hopes of forestalling legal challenges in public school segregation. Desegregation, integration, and new building standards inspired further new school construction, which inherited the Rosenwald name. While not technically Rosenwald schools their association with the earlier Rosenwald program and the survival of the Rosenwald name proclaim their importance to a community’s identity and heritage.

Going to a Rosenwald school initially meant being in the vanguard of education for African American children. The architecture of the schools made a visual assertion of the equality of all children, and the activities at the school made it a focal point of community identity and aspirations.

Although the Rosenwald program did not challenge school segregation head-on, it did challenge the racial ideology behind segregation. Progressive educators and school architects recognized Rosenwald schools as part of their campaign for modern, standardized school plans. The modest, cost-conscious designs with their industrial rooms identified them as rural schools for black children, but these features also made them useful to states that were rapidly expanding their public school infrastructure and vocational education programs for all students. Professional educators and cost-conscious school administrators borrowed freely from Rosenwald plans in developing their own state-approved school designs. They used these plans to build black schools that did not receive Rosenwald grants and to build schools for white children as well. Consequently although educated separately, many southern white and black children learned in classrooms that looked and felt the same -- open, bright, orderly, clean.

Yet as Rosenwald schools’ modern design principles became commonplace and public school authorities retreated back to the neglect from which the promise of grant money had lured them, Rosenwald schools temporarily lost some of their luster. In recent years, grassroots activists have began new campaigns for Rosenwald schools, joining forces with preservationists, educators, and historians. While many Rosenwald schools had fallen victim to changing school practices, neglect, and the elements, many others have been cherished by their alumni and community members. Alumni have erected monuments at the sites of surviving and lost Rosenwald schools. Other buildings still serve as schools, preschools, community centers, and social service offices. In some cases they have reverted back to the churches that first sponsored them. Some have new lives as private homes and apartments. Rosenwald schools remain an integral part of community life across the South.