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HMCPL Digital Archives

About this collection

Booker T. Washington (b. 1856 - d. 1915), founder of the Tuskegee Institute, and millionaire and philanthropist Julius Rosenwald (b. 1862 - d. 1932), President of Sears-Roebuck, created an initiative to build state-of-the-art schools to provide education for African American children living in rural southern states. By 1928, one third of African American children living in rural areas were educated at a Rosenwald school, with 382 schools built in Alabama and nine in Madison County. 

These schools came to embody the spirit of the "simple wood schoolhouse," their recognizable design and floor plans standardized by Samuel Leonard Smith.

These schoolhouses were designed to face either north or south in order to both cope with the intense heat during the summer. The interior and exterior color schemes tended to be lighter, to reflect heat as well as to make the interior of the schoolhouses seem more spacious.

After the Supreme Court ruled that segregation was unconstitutional in 1954, these schools became obsolete, and were often demolished or abandoned. Today they are on the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list by the National Trust.

This collection includes images of the Rosenwald schools of Madison County in the first half of the 20th century.

 
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