Connecting Natural and Cultural Heritage

In the first half of the 20th century, an African-American leader and a white philanthropist took steps to provide black children with a basic resource needed to learn: sturdy schoolhouses.

Booker T. Washington sought the help of Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears Roebuck, to build schools throughout the South, based on a simple, practical design that made the most of limited resources. Rosenwald’s grants were matched with funds raised by local school boards and the communities the schools would serve. More than 5,300 Rosenwald Schools were built in 15 states. North Carolina had more than 800 – more than any other state.

Now, only a handful remain. Some have been restored for use as historic sites or community centers. Others are still standing, but in desperate need of repair before they can again serve as a gathering place for their communities.

In partnership with the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office and the NC African American Heritage Commission, CTNC supports the NC Rosenwald School Network, a group that connects local Rosenwald School groups so that they can share resources and the lessons they’ve learned to bring school grounds and buildings back to life.

At a recent Rosenwald School event hosted by Roanoke River Partners (a member of the Rosenwald School Network), Congressman G.K. Butterfield traced the legacy of Rosenwald Schools in North Carolina to a 1910 meeting between Booker T. Washington and black educators during his train tour of the state.