Rosenwald School Preservation Initiative

In 2013, we listed historic African American/Rosenwald schools on our Most Endangered Historic Places list. Since then, we have worked with community groups and individual Rosenwald school owners providing advice and guidance to help restore Rosenwald schools that are still standing and find ways to commemorate those that have been lost.

We recently launched an architectural survey of Virginia’s Rosenwald schools in partnership with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR). We developed an online survey using geo-location software for this initiative and are asking community members, students, Rosenwald alumni and volunteers to share their intimate, local knowledge of the schools in their area with a wider audience in order to help preserve this important history.

Through the online survey, users can record preliminary information about a school, tag its exact location, and upload images in real time. Ultimately, this information will be verified and used to advocate for both the commemoration and the adaptive re-use of Rosenwald-funded school buildings so that they can once again be vibrant community resources.

Funds from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund and National Park Service, through a grant from DHR, are supporting this project.

Help Find Virginia’s Rosenwald Schools

Are there Rosenwald schools in your area? Use our online survey tool to document them and learn more about our multi-year initiative to preserve Virginia’s historic African American/Rosenwald schools. Please direct survey inquiries to Justin Sarafin at jsarafin@preservationvirginia.org

History of Rosenwald Schools

Between 1917 and 1932 and in the midst of racial segregation and chronic under-funding of African-American schools, more than 380 Rosenwald schools were built in rural areas across Virginia. After seeing the desperate need, Booker T. Washington and the Tuskegee Institute developed a rural school building program and enlisted the help of Sears-Roebuck president Julius T. Rosenwald to provide funding to local communities across the South. African-American communities and localities in which they lived raised money to match the Rosenwald Fund’s contributions and build schools. Local governments were essentially incentivized to apply for the funding in order to create educational opportunities for African American students that better lived up to the “separate but equal” rule of law.

After the ruling of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, most schools fell out of use and many were lost. Even worse for some, their legacy was forgotten. With our statewide Rosenwald school survey, we are partnering with alumni and local communities to rediscover these schools and rebuild their legacies.