Schools of Hope: How Julius Rosen­wald Helped Change African Amer­i­can Education

  • Review
By – May 22, 2014

The emo­tion of Mar­i­an Anderson’s 1939 tri­umph in singing the nation­al anthem at the Lin­coln Memo­r­i­al is the open­ing scene used to pull read­ers into the book Schools of Hope: How Julius Rosen­wald Helped Change African Amer­i­can Edu­ca­tion. Rosen­wald was the very suc­cess­ful pres­i­dent of the Sears & Roe­buck Com­pa­ny who befriend­ed Book­er T. Wash­ing­ton, the for­mer slave who went on to head the Tuskegee Insti­tute. Rosen­wald was a phil­an­thropist who was inspired to give gen­er­ous­ly by his rab­bi and by Washington’s phi­los­o­phy of self-help. These ideas moti­vat­ed Rosen­wald to par­tial­ly fund over 5,000 schools for black chil­dren in the South. He believed that peo­ple did not appre­ci­ate hav­ing things hand­ed to them, so he required the communi­ties to raise half of the funds. He also fund­ed black schol­ars, includ­ing Mar­i­an Ander­son. Nor­man H. Finkelstein’s book is full of histori­cal doc­u­ments and pho­tographs depict­ing the his­to­ry of this era and the pop­u­la­tion deprived of suf­fi­cient edu­ca­tion­al facil­i­ties because of their race. Rosenwald’s sto­ry is an exam­ple of respon­si­ble busi­ness lead­er­ship. Chil­dren who read this book will learn of a wealthy pio­neer who looked beyond his own com­fort and society’s oppres­sive norms and took the reins to address a soci­etal prob­lem. The book shows tzeda­ka put into prac­tice on a grand scale. Rosen­wald said, Hav­ing made mon­ey, my prob­lem now is how to use it so as to give and get hap­pi­ness out of it.” He urged oth­er wealthy indus­tri­al­ists to join him in philan­thropy, orga­niz­ing con­vinc­ing train trips to the Tuskegee Insti­tute. Rosenwald’s fund’s by-laws ben­e­fit­ed peo­ple well-beyond his immedi­ate cir­cle. They were for the well-being of mankind.”

The book is clear­ly writ­ten and illus­trat­ed with black-and-white pho­tographs. Both the text and the illus­tra­tion give an excel­lent sense of time and place. High­ly rec­om­mend­ed for ages 10 and up.

Discussion Questions