In 1917, Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears, Roebuck and Co. of Chicago, established the Julius Rosenwald Fund to support the construction of schools for African-American children in the southern United States. Between 1920 and 1932, the program donated more than $28 million in fifteen states, and resulted in 534 funded buildings on approximately 475 school campuses in Texas.
Rosenwald Schools represent an important chapter in Texas history, reflecting the initiative of African-American communities which sought educational opportunities for their children during the Jim Crow Era, when all public schools in Texas were segregated by law. With financial assistance from the Rosenwald Fund, these communities built modern school facilities, many of which continued to operate as schools into the 1960s. Most Rosenwald buildings were built of wood following standardized plans, and many were demolished after they ceased serving as schools, while a few were converted to churches or community centers. Some communities built teacherages (teacher’s homes) and related buildings with Rosenwald assistance.
Rosenwald Schools in Texas
The Rosenwald Fund supported the construction of schools, teachers' homes, and shop buildings in small cities and unincorporated rural communities in 82 Texas counties (see county list and full inventory). According to the Rosenwald Fund's archival records housed at Fisk University, the program contributed to the construction of approximately 466 school buildings, 37 homes (also known as "teacherages"), and 33 shops in Texas.
The THC's Rosenwald School database indicates that 21 buildings have been confirmed to be demolished, while 39 are extant. Approximately 85% of all Rosenwald-funded buildings in Texas have not been surveyed nor accounted for.
In 1998, the National Park Service approved the THC's “Historic and Architectural Resources Associated with the Rosenwald School Building Program” Multiple Property Form, which included a historic context for the program in Texas, with an inventory of funded sites. Several Rosenwald Schools buildings in Texas have been listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP):
- Sweet Home Vocational School, Seguin, Guadalupe County (listed 1998)
- Lockhart Vocational School, Lockhart, Caldwell County (listed 1998)
- Garland Teacherage, DeKalb vicinity, Bowie County (listed 2002)
- Pleasant Hill Rosenwald School, Linden, Cass County (listed 2004)
- Blanton School, Wolfe City, Hunt County (listed 2006; demolished 2008)
- Lott-Canada School, Beeville, Bee County (listed 2010)
- Hopewell School, Cedar Creek, Bastrop County (listed 2015) Download the Hopewell School NRHP Nomination
Researching Rosenwald Schools in Texas
- The Multiple Property Form “Historic and Architectural Resources Associated with the Rosenwald School Building Program” (1998) provides a history of the program in Texas, an overview of standard building types, and an inventory of Rosenwald Schools built in Texas.
- The THC maintains an inventory of Rosenwald-funded properties in Texas based on Rosenwald Fund record at Fisk University. This current inventory replaces the one published in the 1998 multiple property form.
- (Currently Unavailable) The Fisk University Rosenwald Fund Card File Database is a searchable database providing links to historic card files and photographs for Rosenwald Schools in the U.S.
- In 1937, the Texas State Board of Education published the results of a statewide school adequacy survey. The report included maps of many of the Texas counties with Rosenwald Schools, and is useful in determining their locations.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation 2012 publication "Grassroots Guide to Preserving Rosenwald Schools" highlights case studies of successful rehabilitation projects, provides ideas for reusing schools, offers helpful tips and suggestions for rehabilitating Rosenwald Schools.
If you have information regarding the current status of any Rosenwald Schools in Texas, please contact the THC's National Register Coordinator Gregory Smith.