During Black History Month, we must also thank God for all the other people outside the African American community that helped in the struggle for racial equality.
Without the help of so many White Americans, who put their own lives on the line, the struggle would have been more difficult.
Julius Rosenwald, who born in 1862 to two German-Jewish immigrants, was a major contributor to the advancement of Black education in the South. He was also a co-owner of Sears, Roebuck and Co.
At age 17, Rosenwald dropped out of high school and moved to New York City. He learned about the fashion industry from his uncles, eventually opening a clothing manufacturing company with his brother and cousin in Chicago.
After opening his clothing company, Rosenwald married Augusta Nusbaum. Together, they had five children.
In 1895, Rosenwald invested in the poorly run Sears, Roebuck and Co., becoming vice president of the company after one year of service.
At Sears, Rosenwald pioneered mail-order merchandising, turning the company into a retail giant. In 1908, Rosenwald succeeded Richard Sears as president of the company due to his dedication and hard work.
Rosenwald established the Rosenwald Fund in 1917, following the Jewish tradition of Tzedakah – a moral obligation for acts of charity. The Rosenwald Funds were funneled toward philanthropic purposes.
Rosenwald established a partnership with Booker T. Washington, the president of Tuskegee Institute. Using the Rosenwald Fund, the two philanthropists began constructing schools for Black children across the South with the hopes that education would help Black people achieve economic and social equality.
One of the Rosenwald Fund’s largest projects was the Rural School Building Program, which contributed more than $77 million to the construction of Black schools, shops and teachers’ homes in the South. The schools built by the project were known as “Rosenwald Schools.”
In Kentucky, 158 Rosenwald Schools were constructed through the fund. Warren County received 17 Black schools.
I think there should be a historical marker placed at each location of these schools and the contributions of education to the African American community by Rosenwald needs to be remembered.
Warren County’s first Rosenwald School opened in 1923 and was named the H.D. Carpenter School. The school was also known as the Colored Delafield School, with just three rooms to educate grades one through eight.
I attended that school. Clara Carpenter Cole was principal at the time.
West End Park in Bowling Green was the location of Clara Carpenter Cole’s home, the daughter of Dr. the Rev. H.D. Carpenter. A renaming of the park to become H.D. Carpenter Park in honor of Dr. H.D. Carpenter for his contribution of education in our city and as the second pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church would be fitting.
Rosenwald died in 1932, the same year that the Rural School Building Fund ended.
At the end of Rosenwald’s life, the Rosenwald Fund donated more than $1 billion to public schools, colleges, universities, museums, Jewish charities and Black institutions.
– By Ron Whitlock Sr.