Rosenwald Schools

This week the Georgia Historical Society highlights the newest Georgia Historical Marker, Hart County Training School (HCTS) in Hartwell, Georgia. In consideration of social distancing precautions, the marker’s sponsors, Hart County Historical Society, Harty County Historical Recognition Sponsor Group, Inc., and Hart County Training School, are participating in a virtual rollout of the historical marker to correspond with a privately held, in-person marker dedication.

This week we will share blog posts examining the HCTS, the students and faculty of the school, and the Rosenwald School Building Program. In today’s guest blog post, written by Elizabeth Davis, Ph.D., of the University of Georgia and the Hart County Training School Historical Recognition Sponsor Group, Inc., we look at the history of the Rosenwald School Building Program and the Rosenwald Schools in Hart County.

Left to Right: Dr. Elizabeth Davis University of Georgia-English Department, Dr. Nathaniel Clark, President/Hart County Training School Historical Recognition Sponsor Group Inc., Mr. Jaybez Floyd, Superintendent/Hart County Charter System after presentation on Rosenwald Schools at dedication ceremony. Photo Credit: Rosanna Cruz Bibb, Program Coordinator /Archway Partnership

In the summer of 2017, I sat down with colleagues at the Archway Partnership at the University of Georgia to talk about potential projects they had going on in their eight Archway communities that might be good fits for my Writing and Community class that fall. Anna Strickland, the Archway Professional for Hart County at the time, suggested that my class might provide assistance to the Hart County Training School Historical Recognition Sponsor Group’s efforts to attain historical recognition for the HCTS and document its history.

As part of this project, my students conducted oral history interviews with HCTS alumni and documented significant times in the school’s history. I am embarrassed to say that, when I first began this project, I knew little about a key element in the history of African-American education in the South – Rosenwald Schools. I knew little of the way Booker T. Washington’s call for education as the pathway to prosperity and equality for African Americans was taken up by the president of Sears, Roebuck, and Company, a Chicago retailer born to Jewish immigrant parents named Julius Rosenwald.

What my students and I learned was that over 5,000 schools, teacher residences, and shop buildings were built across the South in the early 20th century because of the work of the Rosenwald Fund. We learned that Rosenwald required communities to commit public funds and/or labor to the schools, mandating that White school boards agree to contribute to the operation and maintenance of the schools. My students and I learned that, in fact, Rosenwald Schools provided over 600,000 mostly rural African-American children in 15 states with the kind of educational and vocational training that would have otherwise  been denied them in the Jim Crow South (“Preserving Rosenwald Schools”).

“Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) and Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932) collaborated to provide African American children in the South with safe, purpose-built schools. Photos courtesy of Library of Congress

We learned that the Hartwell School, as it was first known, had been a Rosenwald School, built in 1923-24 at a cost of $7,000 shared by the Black community, public funding from the community of Hartwell, and the Rosenwald Fund (Fisk University Rosenwald Fund Card File Database). And that there was an associated Teacher’s Home built several years later, as well as two other Rosenwald Schools in the county – Flat Rock and Camp Ground – that were folded into the Hart County Training School when city and county school systems were consolidated. We learned that, because of integration, many Rosenwald School buildings were left to languish and deteriorate, putting Rosenwald Schools on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of 11 Most Endangered Historic Places (“Rosenwald Schools,” National Trust for Historic Preservation).

The work that the HCTS Historical Recognition Sponsor Group has done and that I am proud to have been a small part of helps ensure that the legacy of the Rosenwald Schools remains part of our historical record and community consciousness. Hartwell now joins the growing number of communities that are honoring the legacy of the Rosenwald Schools and their role in advancing African-American education.

Explore the links below to learn more about Hart County Training School: 

Full Marker Text

#MarkerMonday: Hart County Training School

A Student’s Historical Reflection of Hart County Training School

Hart County Training School – A Consolidated Rosenwald Equalization African American School

Hart County Training School Historical Marker Dedication