The River Road African American Museum is hosting an open house and celebrating the history of Louisiana’s Rosenwald Schools on Saturday at the museum’s campus, 511 Williams St., Donaldsonville.
The open house, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., will give visitors a chance to view the completed exterior renovations of the museum’s Rosenwald School, a wooden schoolhouse that was moved to Donaldsonville several years ago.
There’s more work left to do before the interior is ready for tours, museum Executive Director Kathe Hambrick Jackson said.
Jackson said the preservation of the building will help spread the history of the Rosenwald Schoolhouses.
In 1912, Booker T. Washington, the country’s pre-eminent African-American educator and president of Tuskegee Institute, teamed with Julius Rosenwald, the son of German-Jewish immigrants and president of Sears, Roebuck & Co., on an innovative program to improve education for black children in the rural South, Jackson said.
“One of Washington’s many goals was to provide black children in rural communities with safe, purpose-built school buildings,” she said. Together, Washington and Rosenwald had a shared vision that education offered black children the best chance to experience the full benefits and rights of citizenship, she said.
Their collective efforts resulted in 5,300 schools built in 15 Southern states. Louisiana had nearly 400 Rosenwald Schools thanks to the leadership of an Ascension Parish native named John S. Jones, the Rosenwald agent responsible for securing the land donations for these schools. Jones later became the dean and president of Southern University.
Ascension Parish once had six Rosenwald Schools, Baton Rouge 18, St. James three and Iberville four. Not all of the schools had the Rosenwald name; many of them were called training schools, she said.
“The celebration offers the community and our benefactors the first formal tour of the school’s restored exterior and partially restored interior,” she said.
The museum will dedicate the memorial walkway containing bricks purchased by its first circle of supporters.
Robin Washington Banks, the great-granddaughter of Booker T. Washington, will be the featured speaker.
For more information or to make a contribution call (225) 474-5553.