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The enduring legacy of Rosenwald Schools in Charlotte and throughout the American South

Pleasant Plains School, Hertford County, North Carolina.
Andrew Feiler
Pleasant Plains School, Hertford County, North Carolina.

During the Jim Crow era, segregation drove Black children into poor quality schools. But about 100 years ago, a collaboration between two unusual partners built almost 5,000 schoolhouses specifically for Black children throughout the South.

Named after one of the partners, Julius Rosenwald, one-third of the South’s rural black school children and teachers were served by Rosenwald Schools by 1928, according to the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. The schools ultimately enriched the lives and education of a generation of Black families.

Next month, an exhibit at the Charlotte Museum of History will highlight the partnership between Booker T. Washington, a man born into slavery who became a leading intellectual of his time, and Julius Rosenwald, the son of Jewish immigrants, who went on to lead Sears, Roebuck & Company.

We speak with the exhibit’s creator and photographer as well as other experts about the legacy of the Rosenwald Schools in Mecklenburg County and throughout the American South.


Andrew Feiler, photographer, author and creator of the exhibit to be featured at the Charlotte Museum of History, “A Better Life for Their Children”

Fannie Flono, former associate editor for the Charlotte Observer, author of "Thriving in the Shadows: The Black Experience in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County," Charlotte Museum of History trustee and Chair of the Save Siloam School Project

Dan Morrill, former consulting director for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission and professor emeritus of history at UNC Charlotte

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Jesse Steinmetz is Producer of Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. Before joining WFAE in 2019, he was an intern at WNPR in Hartford, Connecticut and hosted a show at Eastern Connecticut State University.