Thursday, January 14, 2010

Historic rural black schools being restored

Read Erik Eckholm's report in today's New York Times, "In the South, Black Schools Restored as Landmarks." The story tells of efforts to restore some of the 800 black schools that remain from among about 5,000 that were built with funds from philanthropist Julius Rosenwald in the early 20th century.

Rosenwald, the president of Sears & Roebuck, was influenced by Booker T. Washington's message of black self-help. His Rosenwald Foundation donated "seed money, architectural advice, and supplies."

Here are some excerpts from the story, including one about the role of community in the construction of these schools:
The schools were a turning point, sparking improved, if still unequal, education for much of the South, historians say.
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The need for them reflected the segregation of the age and the paltry financing of black schools. But historians say their blossoming also demonstrated the strong community ties forged by rural blacks and a fierce determination to educate their children despite official indifference.
Not only are some of the school buildings being saved, Eckholm reports that the Smithsonian's new National Museum of African-American History and Culture is also undertaking to capture oral histories associated with some of these humble but incredibly important institutions.

Interestingly, the story focuses on a school in Pine Grove, South Carolina, which is not even a Census Designated Place. In fact, wikipedia indicates that three places in South Carolina bear the name Pine Grove.

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