WSP Rosenwald School (c. 1925)--cropped.jpg
 

The Rosenwald School

Rosenwald Schools in NC

(Copyright 2019 Stack Stories LLC (see stackstories.com)

  • In 1912, Booker T. Washington, the founder of the Tuskegee Institute, persuaded Julius Rosenwald, the president of Sears, Roebuck & Co., to support the construction of six primary schools for African American children

  • The Rosenwald school building program expanded rapidly, and the Rosenwald Fund was established in 1917 to further Rosenwald’s philanthropic efforts

  • With assistance from the Rosenwald Fund, communities in 15 states built schools, 217 teachers’ homes, and 163 shop buildings by 1932

  • The National Trust notes that by 1928, one-third of rural African American students in the South attended Rosenwald schools, and the schools eventually served over 650,000 students

  • By 1932 when the Rosenwald Fund ceased school-building operations, it had contributed over $4.3 million to school construction, while African communities had contributed over $4.7 million (excluding land and labor)

  • The Rosenwald Fund provided matching grant support that typically 20-25% of the cost of a school

  • Communities usually contributed at least 25% of the cost of the school, and also donated land and labor

  • The local school board had to commit to cover the remaining cost of the building, and to operate it as a public school

  • Although effective in leveraging school construction, African Americans’ contributions constituted double-taxation, as they paid taxes but then had to additional funds to build public schools

  • Progressive building plans were provided by the Rosenwald Fund, southern African Americans their first recognizable public spaces

  • North Carolina’s African American communities demonstrated their commitment to education by building 813 Rosenwald schools, more than any other state

  • Pender County probably has the highest proportion of surviving Rosenwald schools in North Carolina, with at least eight Rosenwald buildings still

  • In Southeastern NC familiar local examples of Rosenwald schools include the brick Williston school on 10th Street in Wilmington, and the wooden Browntown School (now an antiques store) on route 17 just south of Hampstead

West Southern Pines Rosenwald School

In 1924, at a time when white schools were built with tax dollars, the West Southern Pines, a Community of residents making $0.50 a day as maids, caddies and farm workers bought and cleared 4 acres of land plus raised $6,000 towards the cost of constructing the WSP Rosenwald School.

In recognition of this fact, the 1924 deed of the 4 acres of land to Moore County Schools on which the school was built contained the following language:

… Now therefore this deed is given that said land may be conveyed and said conveyance placed of record as intended as between the grantors and grantee and for no other purpose whatsoever except that the said land or all profits in anywise ever arising therefrom in any manner shall be ever devoted to the use of negro education in and about the Town of Southern Pines and West Southern Pines in recognition of the fact that the money for the purchase of said land was raised by the negros of said towns containing four acres, more or less.

This deed language was an important factor in the Trust's successfully overcoming the Board of Education reticence to sell the school to the Trust. When this language was first pointed out, the Moore County Board Of Education's attorney dismissed it out of hand saying "It's a non-issue".


A letter from the Moore County NAACP indicating its intent to enforce the provisions of the 1924 deed, while getting the BOE's attention, did not dissuade them from ignoring the issue.

The Board did not acknowledge the 1924 deed as a real issue that had to be dealt with until they received a letter from the CEO of a Title Insurance Company indicating with the Deed language and the NAACP's letter that no title insurance would be granted for this encumbrance .

 

42x36 painting of WSP Rosenwald School
Painted by Ebben Terry, who was a Councilman of the Town of West Southern Pines when it was one of the first incorporated African American Townships in NC.
Donated to the Trust by Ebben's Granddaughter, Peggie Caple.

Rosenwald School Portrait crop.jpg