Expanding Grant Opportunities
Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia| Posted: 7/7/2008
Although construction grants remained the heart of the Rosenwald school program, the Rosenwald Fund added other school-related grant opportunities that would improve instruction as well. For example, the Fund's insistence on a minimum school term as a requirement for construction grants led it to provide matching grants for term extension to county boards of education so that more black students would enjoy a full scholastic year and black teachers could earn a decent annual salary.
Recognizing that county boards of education did not pay for adequate classroom materials, the Rosenwald Fund also subsidized low-cost school libraries, offering sets of carefully chosen works that included 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.
The rural school building program's diversified programs 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, medicine, and race relations.
Simultaneously, the Rosenwald Fund attempted to reinvigorate the concept of industrial education. Alfred Stern and Edwin Embree hoped to encourage the construction of urban industrial high schools that would offer modern trades education to train black youth in the lines of work already identified with African American laborers. Fund officials commissioned studies of industrial conditions in cities that were interested in participating in the program, most of which were completed by Mabel Byrd of Fisk University under the direction of sociologist Charles S. Johnson, head of Fisk's social science department. Cleveland school architect Walter J. McCornack assisted city school boards with the building plans. Only five urban industrial high schools were constructed, in Little Rock, Arkansas; Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Maysville, Kentucky; Greenville, South Carolina; and Columbus, Georgia. Most of the cities that applied for this aid eventually opted for a smaller grant toward an industrial department within a regular high school setting rather than building costly trades schools that would not expand their students' job opportunities. This unsuccessful experiment, for which the Fund expended almost $203,000, stopped accepting applications in 1930.
After Julius Rosenwald's death in 1932, Edwin Embree announced that the school building program would end with that year. One last Rosenwald school was constructed in 1937 in Warm Springs, Georgia, at the behest of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Southern Office closed at the end of 1937 with the retirement of Samuel L. Smith. Eleven years later, the Julius Rosenwald Fund distributed its last grants and went out of existence, just as its founder had intended. Next »