Rosenwald Schools are a bridge between cultural preservation and land protection
CVSC is committed to doubling the number of protected lands in South Carolina. To do so will require innovative land protection mechanisms that reach beyond the traditional model of land trusts and conservation easements. This means engaging historically underserved communities to ensure that the resulting protected lands provide quality of life, outdoor access, and cultural preservation to these communities. Protecting Rosenwald School sites presents one such opportunity.
What are Rosenwald Schools?
Rosenwald Schools were built for African American students through a philanthropic partnership between Julius Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington. These schools were built throughout SC as state-of-the-art educational facilities in the early 1900s (1912-1923). The schools provided education, improved social mobility, and vastly increased college attendance, setting the stage for the civil rights movement.
Rosenwald Schools and Land Protection
There were nearly 500 Rosenwald schools built in South Carolina, but due to development, sprawl, and neglect, only 40 remain standing in various states of repair. Without action, those that remain could soon fall victim to the same issues. Protecting these schools and the land they occupy broadens the impact of conservation efforts by protecting cultural and historical landmarks that have been overlooked and under-invested by traditional land protection efforts. All land tells a story, and the story of Rosenwald Schools is one that deserves to be told and protected.
These school sites are located throughout the state, often in rural areas on 3-4 acres of land. Many are in need of restoration and/or interpretation. If protected, these sites could offer valuable public green spaces for rural communities. The benefits of green space access are well known, leading not only to positive environmental outcomes but improved mental and physical health as well.
Protecting these schools in a state-wide network offers an opportunity to preserve these important cultural landmarks while also providing public parks for the communities that need them most. Once these sites are protected, they will also serve as a catalyst for protecting surrounding areas.
We must act now to preserve these cultural landmarks
CVSC, the WeGOJA Foundation, the African American Heritage Commission, Rosenwald community groups, and other state and local partners have formed a working group to initiate the protection of Rosenwald School sites across the state. To raise awareness surrounding this project, the SC House passed H.3968, recognizing February 28, 2023, as Rosenwald School Day. Recognizing this day, however, is only the beginning of what we need to do to protect these schools and lands.
We look forward to working with lawmakers to fund and support the process for establishing a state park network of Rosenwald Schools to further protect these places and landmarks.
“This is an important story that should be told to future generations. Rosenwald history is South Carolina history, and the schools have shaped and influenced so much of the South Carolina we know and love today.”Charlotte Holt, former teacher of the New Hope Rosenwald School
- The Nature Conservancy’s GIS Tool
- Developed by The Nature Conservancy with data from the S.C. Department of Archives & History, this powerful mapping tool shows you extant Rosenwald Schools and their intersections with legislative districts, land protection targets, and more.
- South Carolina African-American Heritage Commission’s “How Did We Get to Now?”
- SCAAHC & SCDAH teamed up in 2016 to create a comprehensive resource on historically African American schools and school sites, including most known Rosenwald properties
- South Carolina Department of Archives & History Rosenwald Database
- This database allows you to search for Rosenwald School records by county
- Fisk University Rosenwald Fund Archives
- Fisk University is a pre-eminent resource for all things Rosenwald. Historical records, school databases, and more can be found here.
Rosenwald School Workshop
On October 19th, 2022 CVSC and WeGOJA hosted the SC Rosenwald School Workshop at Pine Grove Rosenwald School in Columbia, SC. The event brought together community groups, SC legislators, state agencies, and the conservation community to discuss the future of Rosenwald School Protection in SC.