Voices of Rosenwald Schools
About the Podcast
In 1912, Booker T. Washington approached Julius Rosenwald, the President of Sears, Roebuck and Company, with an idea to build six small schools for African Americans in rural Alabama. Over the coming years, over 5,000 schools were constructed in 15 states, representing one of the most important efforts to advance African American education in the early 20th century. However, in 1954 when the Supreme Court ruled segregation in education unconstitutional, the schools became obsolete. Most were abandoned, many were neglected, and some were demolished.
Today, the National Trust for Historic Perseveration is active in states across the south and southwest, revitalizing these modest schoolhouses as vital hubs of community activity. Made possible by grant funding from the Hillsdale Foundation, this podcast series will introduce you to the people we have met who are tireless advocates for the schools that helped shape their lives.
[Episode 1] Voices of Rosenwald Schools: Jeanne Cyriaque
Jeanne Cyriaque is the African American programs coordinator at the Historic Preservation Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. As part of her job, Jeanne searches for Rosenwald Schools in the more rural parts of Georgia, where more than 250 schools were built, and assists organizations and communities in finding the resources they need to preserve them.
[Episode 2] Voices of Rosenwald Schools: Mabel Dickey
Mabel Dickey attended the Mt. Zion Rosenwald School near Florence, SC for a brief period as a small child. Her family moved around following her father’s jobs with the railroad. She spent most of her professional life as a social worker, but upon retirement, moved back to Florence. Today, she continues to fundraise so the school can be restored and used by the Mt. Zion Methodist Church and the surrounding community.
[Episode 3] Voices of Rosenwald Schools: Tenetha Hall
Tenetha Hall’s siblings all attended the historic Hope School in Pomaria, SC. When her sister, Lillie Flemon Wise, who had been leading the charge to restore the school, passed away, Tenetha felt it was her calling to continue Lillie’s work and see the project through. She found an ally in Ron Hope, who possessed the skills necessary to undertake the restoration, and whose ancestor had originally donated the land for Hope School’s construction.
[Episode 4] Voices of Rosenwald Schools: Ron Hope (Two Parts)
When Ron Hope retired from the military, he settled on some family property in Pomaria, SC, which was just down the road from the historic Hope School. He later learned that his great uncle, James H. Hope, donated the land on which the school was constructed. He also learned that his great uncle was the state superintendent of education in the early 20th century who encouraged South Carolina’s wholesale participation in the Rosenwald School building program. Aware of this rich family history, Ron took the lead on the painstaking restoration of the Hope School building.
[Episode 5] Voices of Rosenwald Schools: Bishop Frederick Calhoun James
Bishop Frederick Calhoun James, African Methodist Episcopal Bishop (retired), grew up in rural Prosperity, SC, where he attended Howard Junior High School from the first through tenth grades. He calls those the “greatest days of his life” and credits Howard Junior High with giving him his start in everything he ever attained in his life. He counts among his friends many of the well-known civil rights activists of the 1960s and 70s along with other world leaders, including a former United States president. Today, Bishop James is spearheading the effort to restore historic Howard Junior High.