A Rosenwald school in Walnut Cove, North Carolina has been restored and is now being used as the Walnut Cove Senior Citizen’s Center. Even schools that have been abandoned have the potential to be restored to their former glory. See the picture of the restored school here, and don’t forget to check out Rosenwald when it hits theaters later this summer to find out more about the Rosenwald schools.
Rosenwald is mentioned in the May 2015 issue of The Jewish Journal. The article, “Art, Identity, Violence, and Heroism,” by Iris Mann, details several films opening up this summer. Of Rosenwald, Mann writes, “Filmmaker Aviva Kempner details the life and activities of the man, who never finished high school yet went on to become president of Sears. She illustrates how Rosenwald put his belief in tzedakah (charity) and tikkun olam (repairing the world) into such charitable acts as supporting the NAACP and helping to build more than 5,300 schools for African-American students in the South during the early 20th century.” Rosenwald is coming to theaters later this summer.
MIT hosted an event on Wednesday, May 13 in honor of Robert Robinson Taylor’s induction into the Postal Service’s Black Heritage Stamp Series. Taylor’s limited edition Forever Stamp was released earlier this year. The event featured MIT and USPS revealing a special pictorial postmark of the stamp at the event, and remarks from the dean of the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, the postmaster for the City of Cambridge, and the Cambridge city councillor. Taylor was MIT’s first African American graduate, and is believed to be the first academically trained black architect in the nation. After graduating from MIT in 1892, he worked at Tuskegee University, where he is “credited with developing the school’s architecture curriculum, and designing and overseeing construction for dozens of new, state-of-the-art buildings on campus.”
Photo Credit: US Postal Service
To read more about it, click here. Taylor’s story is also discussed in Rosenwald, hitting theaters later this summer.
May 22nd would have been the 164th birthday of Rabbi Emil Hirsch, one of Julius Rosenwald’s greatest philanthropic influences. In fact, according to Peter Ascoli’s book Julius Rosenwald: The Man Who Built Sears, Roebuck and Advanced the Cause of Black Education in the American South, “it was largely Emil Hirsch who set Julius Rosenwald on the road to becoming one of the preeminent philanthropists of the early twentieth century.” Hirsch was a reform rabbi at the Sinai Congregation in Chicago whose views were progressive and radical for his day. One of his main tenets was the idea of “tikkun olam,” or to heal the world, which resulted in Rosenwald adopting it as one of his own tenets. Many of the donations that Rosenwald decided to make were given to places that had a connection to Hirsch.
Harris Rosen could be considered a modern day Julius Rosenwald. Rosen, who gained wealth from the Florida hotel business, decided to put several million of his own dollars into helping the community of Tangelo Park in Orange County, Florida. Due to Rosen’s generosity, nearly all of the seniors in the neighborhood graduate. Most also attend college on scholarships financed by Rosen. Before Rosen stepped in to help, nearly half of its students dropped out. Since his involvement in the community, crime rates have lowered and property values have risen. Jerry L. Demings, sheriff of Orange County, said that “the quality of life there has improved significantly.”
On May 16, MSNBC’s Melissa Harris- Perry addressed First Lady Michelle Obama’s commencement speech to the graduating class of Tuskegee University. During her show, Dr. Harris-Perry referenced another first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, who made headlines in 1941 for getting into a plane and flying with a training Tuskegee Airman named Chief Charles Alfred Anderson, an event which is covered in Rosenwald. Mrs. Roosevelt’s flight was controversial because many doubted the abilities of African American pilots, and the sense of even having a training program for the airmen. The First Lady flew against the wishes of the Secret Service who accompanied her on the visit. The Secret Service even called the White House to notify FDR of his wife’s decision, which is covered in Rosenwald. News and images of Mrs. Roosevelt in the cockpit circulated nationwide, sparking the backlash the Secret Service had anticipated. This story is told in Rosenwald by Eleanor Roosevelt Seagraves – granddaughter of Rosenwald Fund board member Eleanor Roosevelt.
Just as Julius Rosenwald had demonstrated faith in and support of Southern African American students, teachers, and communities by partnering with them to fund education and school construction, Mrs. Roosevelt exhibited her confidence in the Tuskegee pilot training program. Her confidence was later borne out by their stellar service record during World War Two.
Airforce Captain Matt Quy and his wife Tina decided to rebuilt an old crop duster aircraft, which, unbeknownst to them, had been used to train Tuskegee Airmen. The couple were told the unexpected news when they sent the serial number to an Air Force historian. The Tuskegee Airmen were America’s first black squadrons who gained fame during World War II. To see the video from 60 Minutes, click here. To find out more about the Tuskegee Airmen, don’t forget to see Rosenwald when it hits theaters later this summer. There is a great story about the building of the airfield in the film.
We are happy to report that the screening of Rosenwald at the National Center for Jewish Film’s JEWISHFILM.2015 at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston went off without a hitch! It was a full house, with some members of Julius Rosenwald’s family in attendance. Peter Ascoli, biographer and grandson of Julius Rosenwald, and director Aviva Kempner spoke after the film. The audience members had wonderful responses, one of whom said it was the best documentary he had ever seen. The Museum currently has an exhibit on Gordon Parks, including shots of overcrowding in Chicago, which is a theme in the film. Rosenwald will open in New York on August 14 at the Sunshine Cinema.
Samuel Reshevsky, the famous Polish child chess prodigy, learned to play at age 4. By age 8, he was playing numerous opponents at once and easily beating experts. When his family came to the United States, his parents never registered him for school, and they were eventually taken to court over it. Julius Rosenwald became his benefactor, and would provide his livelihood on the condition that he would complete his education. Reshevsky gave up competitive chess for seven years and graduated from the University of Chicago in 1934. He never went on to become a fully professional chess player, but he became an international grandmaster.