At the beginning of Black History Month, Throwback Thursday takes a look at some stories from Southern Kentucky’s Black history. Let’s start with Rosenwald Schools, an educational plan devised by Booker T. Washington of the Tuskegee Institute and Julius Rosenwald of Sears Roebuck. By the late 20th century, these all-black schools became the best option for African-American education.
Most of the country’s schools remained segregated through the post-Civil War Reconstruction era years and beyond. Black children have not always had the best educational opportunities. Booker T. Washington was born a slave in Virginia but went to the Union Army-run elementary school in Alabama after the war. He was inspired to continue his education and founded the school to teach other African Americans, the Tuskegee Institute.
Its establishment caught the attention of the white progressive chairman of Sears and Roebuck, Julius Rosenwald. The two met in 1911, and Rosenwald began serving on the Tuskegee board of directors. He began funding the construction of schools for black students throughout the southern United States. These Rosenwald schools were considered to have the best educational opportunities for the African American community. Rosenwald Schools had very specific building plans based on community size, promoting the best healthcare and educational opportunities.
Schools were built using this funding from 1913 until about 1932. When the Supreme Court declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional in the verdict of Brown v. the Topeka Board of Education in 1954, the Rosenwald Schools became obsolete.
There were several Rosenwald Schools in the Southern Kentucky area, and some have fallen into disrepair, while others are in excellent condition and have been retained for other functions.
Rosenwald schools were in at least 12 communities in southern Kentucky: Rockfield, Auburn, Bristol, Russellville, Adairville, Oakville, New Hope, Union, Lewisburg, Horse Cave, Munfordville and Coney Fork.
That’s all for this week, brought to you by Hart County Tourism and the Kentucky Museum. In Bowling Green, Because Local Matters, Telia Butler, WNKY News 40.