Through his friendship with the African American educator Booker T. Washington, Julius Rosenwald, a Chicago merchant and philanthropist, made the most significant contribution to the education of southern rural blacks of the time through construction of school buildings. From 1913 to 1932, 5,357 schools, shops, and teachers’ homes were built in fifteen states through contributions from Rosenwald.

In the early twentieth century, schooling for southern blacks was neither well planned nor well supported. Classes were held in vacant buildings, and teaching was frequently done by older children who had perhaps completed elementary school. Through his friendship with the African American educator Booker T. Washington, Julius Rosenwald, a Chicago merchant and philanthropist, made the most significant contribution to the education of southern rural blacks of the time through construction of school buildings. From 1913 to 1932, 5,357 schools, shops, and teachers’ homes were built in fifteen states through contributions from Rosenwald. Believing that schooling should be a collaborative effort, Rosenwald required that all parties give toward the community schools. Of the $28 million spent from 1913 to 1932, 16.5 percent was given by Rosenwald, 19 percent by blacks, 4.5 percent by whites, and 60 percent by state and local governments.

Four hundred and fifty Rosenwald schools were built in South Carolina between 1913 and 1940 at a cost of $2,892,360. Fourteen of these were built under the supervision of Washington’s Tuskegee Institute in Alabama prior to the incorporation of the Rosenwald Fund in 1917. More than 74,000 black students were educated in these buildings. Mt. Zion Rosenwald School in Florence, Liberty Colored High School in Pickens County, and Walhalla Graded School in Walhalla are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Rosenwald / St. David’s Elementary in Society Hill was still used as an elementary school as of the early twenty-first century. As the needs of schools changed, some of the buildings were used for other purposes. Roebuck School in Spartanburg became a school for white children. The Felton Teacherage was used by South Carolina State University. Many buildings, when no longer needed as schools, were sold to neighboring churches. Other buildings deteriorated and were destroyed.

Bullock, Henry Allen. A History of Negro Education in the South, from 1619 to the Present. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967.

Embree, Edwin R., and Julia Waxman. Investment in People: The Story of the Julius Rosenwald Fund. New York: Harper, 1949.

Hawkins, Andy. “The Rosenwald Schools: The Chicago Connection.” Mid-Carolina Journal (winter 1988–1989): 20–21.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Rosenwald Schools
  • Author Tamara S. Powell
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • URL http://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/rosenwald-schools/
  • Access Date July 9, 2020
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • Original Published Date June 20, 2016
  • Date of Last Update May 22, 2018