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African American Heritage
Rosenwald School Legacy

Hope School, Newberry County
Hope School, Newberry County

In 1915, Sears and Roebuck President, Julius Rosenwald, established a matching grant fund in his name to construct better quality black schools throughout the South. Between 1917 and 1932, his Fund assisted in the construction of over 5,000 school buildings, forever changing the rural Southern landscape. Nearly 500 buildings were constructed in South Carolina. At a time when State support for educating African American children was woefully inadequate, Rosenwald Schools played a critical role in educating South Carolina’s children.

Though over one-third of black children in the South in the first half of the twentieth century passed through the doors of a Rosenwald school, today, many of these schools of hope have disappeared from the landscape. In South Carolina, many became victims of neglect and abandonment as a result of the School Equalization Program (or 3% sales tax program), started in 1951 under Governor James Byrnes, which consolidated rural black schools by building state-of-the-art new black schools in an effort to thwart integration. (To learn more about equalization schools in South Carolina visit this website.) Other Rosenwald schools have been severely altered and still others stand empty awaiting a new life.

Other Resources

Rosenwald Schools Documentation: SHPO Success Story

Rosenwald Schools Initiative 
Describes the Rosenwald Schools Initiative sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The site includes historical information about Rosenwald Schools and links to many other sources.

Rosenwald Schools: Beacons for Black Education in the American South
Created by Dr. Tom Hanchett, Director of the Museum of the New South in Charlotte, NC, the site focuses on North Carolina but also contains a history of the Rosenwald Fund, all of the floor plans used by the Fund from 1917-1932, and links.

Fisk University Rosenwald Fund Card File Database
The most comprehensive online searchable database for known Rosenwald Schools built in 15 southern states. It is composed of the information found on the original Rosenwald Fund cards housed at Fisk University. 

The Jackson Davis Collection of African American Educational Photographs
A digitized database of nearly 6,000 photographs of African American schools, teachers, and students taken throughout the Southeastern United States by Jackson Davis in the first half of the 20th century. The complete collection, which also includes documents, is housed at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library on the University of Virginia campus.

SC Department of Education’s School Insurance Photographs
(Under "Record Group” select “School Insurance Photographs, 1935 - 1952”)
This is an online collection, housed on the SC Department of Archives and History's Online Records Index, of photographs of SC schools made between 1935 and 1952. The photographs document both black and white schools.