Home ยป Protecting South Carolina’s Rosenwald Schools

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.

The South Carolina Rosenwald Schools Trail Study

In 2023 CVSC worked with lawmakers in Columbia to secure funding for the SC Rosenwald Schools Trail Study. The funding was allocated to the WeGOJA Foundation to conduct a feasibility study for a new state park network of Rosenwald School sites across South Carolina. CVSC worked with WeGOJA to hire architectural design firm, Earth Designs LLC , to handle the technical aspects of the master planning process. Earth Designs has worked closely with SCPRT and were responsible for planning the newest SC state park – The Black River State Park – making them a natural fit.

The study officially kicked off in January of 2024 and will focus on six sites for the pilot study:

  • St. George Rosenwald School
  • Lincolnville Rosenwald School
  • Pine Grove Rosenwald School
  • Mt. Zion Rosenwald School
  • Hope Rosenwald School
  • Great Branch Teacherage

At the end of the study the steering committee will produce a report for lawmakers and Rosenwald community groups that lays out a plan for the establishment of a South Carolina Rosenwald Trail.

To stay up to date with the SC Rosenwald Schools Trail study visit SCRosenwaldTrail.org

“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

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.

Image courtesy of The Nature Conservancy – SC

Resources

  • SCRosenwaldTrail.org
    • Your go-to source for staying up to date with the SC Rosenwald Schools Trail Study
  • 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

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.