Rosenwald Schools Initiative

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Rosenwald Schools, A National Treasure

In 1912, Booker T. Washington approached philanthropist Julius Rosenwald about his concept to build rural schools desperately needed for African American children across the segregated south. That partnership sparked an initiative that eventually created more than 5300 schools, vocational shops and teacher’s homes across 15 states in the South and Southwest from 1912-1932.

These schools now are 80-100 years old, and many suffer from abandonment, neglect, or lack of resources for continued use by the communities they once served. In 2002 the National Trust placed Rosenwald Schools on the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list and created a special initiative to help raise awareness, find new uses, provide resources, and assist in the preservation and rehabilitation of the aging school buildings.

In 2011, the National Trust began focusing the work of the entire organization around saving a portfolio of nationally significant, threatened historic places that we call National Treasures—and Rosenwald Schools were awarded National Treasure status. Our mission to save Rosenwald Schools remains the same but our strategy is more focused and powerful.

Visit SavingPlaces.org for more frequent updates on Rosenwald Schools and to view the complete portfolio of National Treasures we are striving to save.

National Treasures are a growing portfolio of irreplaceable places that epitomize the American story, but face distinct threats. The entire National Trust for Historic Preservation is working to save them.

Preserving Rosenwald Schools

Download the Preserving Rosenwald Schools Booklet

Learn about the history and legacy of Rosenwald Schools, read case studies of successful rehabilitation projects, find ideas for reusing the schools, and get helpful tips and suggestions for rehabilitating Rosenwald Schools in the Grassroots Guide to Preserving Rosenwald Schools. Download your own copy of Preserving Rosenwald Schools here. To receive a bound copy of the 24-page booklet, email Rosenwald@savingplaces.org.

Find a Rosenwald School: Fisk University’s Digital Card Files

Fisk University’s Franklin Library is home to the Julius Rosenwald Fund archives, containing the largest single collection of papers from the Rosenwald School building program. One portion of that collection is a set of 5,000 fragile index cards containing information on almost every Rosenwald school constructed. Search this digital database if you are seeking information on a specific Rosenwald School or trying to determine if a school in your county is a Rosenwald School. Learn more.