Rosenwald Project

African-Americans and Education: The Rosenwald School Legacy

Background Information

Every other year, the University of North Carolina Wilmington Upperman African American Cultural Center, History Department, and Watson College of Education host a conference on African Americans and Education. Started in 2009 (and held again in 2011 & 2013) by local teacher and historian Claudia Stack, this conference is designed to examine the history of education for African Americans in the southeast and to evaluate current educational contexts for African American students in public schools. It also examines the history of schools started with money from the Julius Rosenwald fund. The conference organizing committee includes:

  • Claudia Stack, Teacher, Virgo Preparatory Academy
  • Todd McFadden, Director, African American Cultural Center
  • Paul Townend, Chair, History Department
  • Glen Harris, Associate Professor, History Department
  • Donyell Roseboro, Associate Professor, Watson College of Education

The next conference is tentatively scheduled for spring 2015.

 

Pender County Rosenwald Schools by Claudia Stack

African American communities in Pender County organized to build 19 buildings (five of them at the Pender County Training School) on 15 school sites with assistance from the Rosenwald Fund between 1917 and 1929. Through enormous sacrifice and determination, these communities often provided 25% or more of the cost of the Rosenwald facilities. Although the dollar amounts varied, the communities frequently also donated the land and much of the labor for the school. The combination of the community donation and the Rosenwald contribution acted as leverage for local school boards to provide the rest of the funds, and to commit to operating the schools.

Rosenwald schools in Pender County were built during the same era that local government used bond money to fund six brick schools for white students. A seventh, the Penderlea school, was built by the federal government and later transferred to Pender County. Despite the fact that the wooden Rosenwald schools were a step behind white facilities, they represented an enormous advance in African American school facilities, and communities were justifiably proud of the schools and teachers.

The Pender County school superintendent during this period, Thurman Tate Murphy, was a strong supporter of African American education. It is likely that the Rosenwald movement would not have been as successful in Pender County without his influence.

Unlike many more affluent North Carolina counties, Pender County continued to use several of its Rosenwald school buildings into the 1960s.

For more information on the Rosenwald school movement, see the Links page at the upper right.