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June 14, 2018

Marker to commemorate county’s Rosenwald Schools

Contributed Photo
The 1948 Junior Class at Rosenwald School in Warrenton: Dorothy Jeffries, Mary Jackson, Rosie Chapman, Shirley Murray, Delores Brewer, Julie Sharp, Sarah Wigenton, Marjorie Coosenberry, Naomi Downey, Mary Frances Brown, Frances Burns, Rachel Smoot, Nettie Witherall, Eliza Foster, Paul Walker, Dade Nimrode, Harold Willias, Charles Green, Lloyd Thompson, George Jolly, Leona Mann, Theorore Berry, Clyde Carrol, John Mann, Ray Fitzhugh, John Baker and William Dowdy.
The County Training/Rosenwald School in Warrenton.
Remington’s Rosenwald School.
The Rosenwald School at Rectortown.
It will acknowledge part of the heritage of African-Americans and the process of education. It will also acknowledge how important it is to work together — different groups working together.
— Karen Hughes White, Afro-American Historical Association of Fauquier County president
Fauquier’s Rosenwald Schools
• Blackwelltown School* 

• County Training School* 

• Crest Hill School*

• Greenville School* 

• Orlean School

• Rectortown School

• Remington School*

• Routts Hill School

* Still standing

> Click here for searchable database of Rosenwald Schools
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
The Afro-American Historical Association of Fauquier County president didn’t know what to make of the out-of-the-blue gesture.

Without warning, the Florida-based Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation three months ago offered to pay for a historical marker to acknowledge Fauquier’s eight, blacks-only Rosenwald Schools, constructed in the 1920s and 1930s, Karen Hughes White recalled.

Jewish American Society President Jerry Klinger explained to Ms. White in an April 6 email that he essentially wanted to help recognize in a durable way the schools’ educational contributions to rural communities across the South.

“I thought, ‘Wow, this is awesome’,” Ms. White, co-founder of The Plains-based AHA, said of the proposal. “I immediately called (Mr. Klinger). We had a lovely conversation. It’s a great opportunity; it’s part of our mission.”

> Video at bottom of story

For Mr. Klinger, the markers would serve as a kind of homage to Julius Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington, who in the early 1900s partnered to help communities to build more than 5,000 Rosenwald schools, shops and teacher homes.

Rosenwald Schools attempted to offset persistent underfunding of public education for African-American children in the South before desegregation.

A prominent clothier, Mr. Rosenwald became a part owner and president of Sears Roebuck Co. A prominent philanthropist, Mr. Washington served as president of the Tuskegee Institute — a historically black university in Alabama.

Their shared commitment to crush bigotry and discrimination and a belief in the transformative power of education motivated them, Mr. Klinger suggested.

He believes their example proves as relevant and urgent today as it did more than a century ago.

“Given the contentiousness that is going on in the country now, we have to talk about communicating, the brotherhood of people,” the retired 70-year-old Merrill Lynch executive said. “Not everybody’s at each other’s throats. Sometimes we can work together.”

His organization launched the marker program earlier this year.

Besides AHA, it has worked with groups and communities in Arkansas, Florida and Maryland.

So far, no markers have been installed, Mr. Klinger said. Planned for Warrenton, the Fauquier project represents his organization’s first in Virginia.

“It’s a simple idea,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is create facts on the ground, visible facts so that people can stop by and talk and say, ‘Gee, I didn’t know that’.”

His nonprofit will provide financing and technical support, Mr. Klinger said.

Fabrication and delivery of an aluminum marker, measuring about 48 by 46 inches, will cost up to $3,000, he said. Attached to a post, it would stand about 8 feet above the ground.

“What we really need is somebody who is enthusiastic on the ground and wants to pick it up,” Mr. Klinger added. “And that’s where Karen White comes in.”

She and others, with input from folks who attended Rosenwald schools in Fauquier, will help decide on the layout, text and graphics for the marker.

“It will acknowledge part of the heritage of African-Americans and the process of education,” said Ms. White, 65. “It will also acknowledge how important it is to work together — different groups working together.”

“The text is up to the community,” Mr. Klinger noted. “I have only one requirement and that Julius Rosenwald’s Jewish identity is recognized.”

After considering a range of potential Fauquier sites, AHA’s board decided that Eva Walker Park along Alexandria Pike in Warrenton made sense because it provides high visibility and easy access to a public space, according to Ms. White.

The park also seemed appropriate because it adjoins the historically black Haiti neighborhood and carries the name of Ms. Walker, a prominent African-American Fauquier native, businesswoman and social activist, the AHA co-founder said. Ms. Walker died in 1982.

Ms. White a few weeks ago presented the plan to Town Manager Brannon Godfrey for review.

There should be no problem placing a marker at the park, Mr. Godfrey said.

“I think it’s a real cool part of our history that we should celebrate,” he added.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Conway Porter, who attended the Warrenton Rosenwald school during the 1950s, said of the planned marker. “The Rosenwald schools afforded, in the final analysis, a better education (for black students) because you could get a higher education beyond elementary in your community.”

It will help educate and remind people about the difference the schools made for blacks in Fauquier and across the south, Mr. Porter added.

“A lot of the thinking back in the day was that blacks did not have to go any further than a certain amount of education,” recalled the retired state government worker, who teaches math at Lord Fairfax Community College and lives near Warrenton.

Before the construction of Rosenwald Schools in Fauquier, “there were people who couldn’t get a high school education in the county,” Mr. Porter, 72, said. “Some of them had to go to (the all-black) Manassas Industrial School.”

Rosenwald Schools changed that.

Making available a local public high school education to blacks “helped everybody, not just the African-American populace,” Mr. Porter explained. “It helped everybody, because it increased the general education of that county.”

In turn, residents got better jobs, made and spent more money, helping to strengthen the local economy, he said.

“It brought prosperity to the community,” Mr. Porter said. “Education is the one thing that sort of equalizes us. If we have similar educations, we have similar opportunities.

“Education has always played an important role in the development of the African-American community.”

“They elevated the quality of education” for blacks that benefited the community as a whole, Mr. Porter added.

Most of Fauquier’s Rosenwald Schools got built in the 1920s. To her knowledge, all or portions of five of the structures still stand, Ms. White said. Privately owned, some serve as residences.

Fabrication to installation of the marker could take four to five months, Mr. Klinger said.

> Click below to watch Karen Hughes White explain the project:

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