Warrenton Training Center (aka Rosenwald High School).
At 10 a.m. next Saturday, August 3, Fauquier County will commemorate eight schools established for African-American children by Jewish philanthropist Julius Rosenwald. A new historical marker will be unveiled in a ceremony at Eva Walker Park in Warrenton.
Influenced by the writings of educator Booker T. Washington, Rosenwald joined forces with African-American communities throughout the Jim Crow South to build nearly 5,000 schools between 1912 and 1932. Rosenwald himself never finished high school but rose to become the president of Sears, Roebuck and Co.
Rosenwald joined forces with African-American communities throughout the Jim Crow South to build nearly 5,000 schools between 1912 and 1932. In the 1930s, about 1 in every 3 African-American children attended a Rosenwald school.
In the 1930s, about 1 in every 3 African-American children attended a Rosenwald school. The “county training school” (see photo) became a 4-year high school and was the only school that served African-American children while Virginia schools were segregated. The Fauquier County School Board named the school Rosenwald High School in 1933.
In 2015, Washington filmmaker Aviva Kempner created the film Rosenwald: A Remarkable Story of a Jewish Partnership with African American Communities (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosenwald_(film)). Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist at The Washington Post and a Rosenwald alumnus, is highlighted in the film, in which he points out, “education was seen as dangerous [for blacks] by white Southerners.” Other Rosenwald graduates include Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and the late poet Maya Angelou.
The Rosenwald Fund offered one-third of the necessary monies to construct the school, another one-third to be contributed by the white pubic schools in the community, and a matching third by the black community, sometimes in the form of sweat equity. In this way, ironically, the Rosenwald philanthropy underwrote equal-but-separate facilities, later overturned by the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.
In Virginia, 382 schools were built in 79 counties [with Rosenwald funding]. This included the first Rosenwald school in Fairfax County, located at 10515 School Street, built 1925-26.
In all, Rosenwald donated some $4.3 million for schools in 15 states, creating nearly 5,000 elementary and secondary school facilities. In Virginia, 382 schools were built in 79 counties. This included the first Rosenwald school in Fairfax County, located at 10515 School Street, built 1925-26. It was demolished in 1952 and replaced by Eleven Oaks as a (segregated) elementary school for blacks. Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling that equal but separate was constitutionally not equal, Virginia responded with “massive resistance” to integrating its schools. A series of laws and local codes were adopted to forestall integration, including a linchpin measure that cut off funds and closed any public school that sought to integrate. Further to avoid integration, a number of localities closed their schools in favor of private, all-white “academies.” [See VoxFairfax Book Review of 09/09/2018, Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County.]
Eleven Oaks continued, however, as a segregated school until 1966, when it and one other Fairfax County school–the last two to resist integration–was repurposed for administrative use. In 2002, the National Trust for Historic Preservation placed all Rosenwald-assisted schools on its list of most endangered historic buildings. Eleven Oaks was demolished in 2012.
Michael L. Blakey, Ph.D., will be the featured speaker for the August 3 event. He is National Endowment for the Humanities professor of anthropology, Africana studies, and American studies and director of the Institute for Historical Biology at the College of William & Mary.
The process of developing and installing Warrenton’s commemorative marker began in April 2018, according to Karen Hughes White, executive director, archivist, and founder of the Afro-American Historical Association of Fauquier County, when she was contacted by Jerry Klinger, president of the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation with an offer to fund a historical interpretive marker for Fauquier County’s Rosenwald schools. The purpose was “to tell an important part of your story in Virginia,” he stated. (The Society is a nonprofit, volunteer organization, whose purpose is to identify and recognize sites of American Jewish historical interest.)
Given that 2019 is being recognized as the 400th anniversary of Africans landing on the shores of Virginia, White called the dedication of the marker especially appropriate.