Among the 17 historic sites just added to the Virginia Landmarks Register by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources are three so-called “Rosenwald” schools — in Rappahannock, Albemarle and Campbell counties.
Rosenwald schools refer to those buildings constructed for the education of African-American students, with financial support and building plans provided by the Julius Rosenwald Fund.
The fund was the collaborative brainchild of Booker T. Washington, president of Tuskegee Institute, and philanthropist Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears, Roebuck and Co. During the years of the Rosenwald Fund’s operation, between 1917 and 1932, more than 5,000 schools were constructed throughout the American South, including more than 380 in Virginia.
Less than 100 survive today in the commonwealth, one right here in the county seat of Washington, standing reminders of the Rosenwald Fund’s initiatives for the advancement of African-American education during the first half of the 20th century.
Washington School Graded School in Rappahannock County was constructed around 1923 as a two-teacher school. The school’s construction cost $3,500, with the African- American community contributing $1,200, raised through the efforts of a “Parent Civic League,” and $1,600 from public contributions, supported with $700 from the Rosenwald Fund.
The Washington School, which closed in 1963, retains the early look and feel of its rural setting, and exhibits historic integrity of design, workmanship, and materials.
The Virginia Department of Historic Resources will forward the documentation for the three newly listed schools to the National Park Service for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.