A Bet­ter Life for Their Chil­dren: Julius Rosen­wald, Book­er T. Wash­ing­ton, and the 4,978 Schools that Changed America

  • From the Publisher
September 1, 2020

Born to Jew­ish immi­grants, Julius Rosen­wald rose to lead Sears, Roe­buck & Com­pa­ny and turn it into the world’s largest retail­er. Born into slav­ery, Book­er T. Wash­ing­ton became the found­ing prin­ci­pal of Tuskegee Insti­tute. In 1912, the two men launched an ambi­tious pro­gram to part­ner with Black com­mu­ni­ties across the seg­re­gat­ed South to build pub­lic schools for African Amer­i­can chil­dren. One of the ear­li­est col­lab­o­ra­tions between Jews and African Amer­i­cans, this ini­tia­tive drove dra­mat­ic improve­ment in African Amer­i­can edu­ca­tion­al attain­ment and fos­tered the gen­er­a­tion who became the foot sol­diers of the civ­il rights movement.

Of the orig­i­nal 4,978 Rosen­wald schools built 1912 – 1937 across fif­teen states, only about 500 sur­vive. To tell this sto­ry visu­al­ly, Andrew Feil­er drove 25,000 miles, pho­tographed 105 schools, and inter­viewed dozens of for­mer stu­dents, teach­ers, and preser­va­tion­ists. The book includes 85 pho­tographs cap­tur­ing inte­ri­ors and exte­ri­ors, schools restored and yet-to-be-restored, and por­traits of peo­ple with com­pelling con­nec­tions to these schools. Brief nar­ra­tives writ­ten by Feil­er accom­pa­ny each pho­to­graph. The book’s fore­word is by Con­gress­man John Lewis, a Rosen­wald school alum.

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