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August 5, 2019

Rosenwald Schools marker a permanent reminder

Photos/Don Del Rosso
Former Rosenwald Schools students unveil the marker Saturday morning at Eva Walker Park in Warrenton.
Part of the audience of about 100 at Saturday morning’s Saturday.
Dr. Michael Blakey, a College of William & Mary anthropology professor, addresses the audience.
Everything we did in our lives involved the school, because the school was not just school, it was a community.
— Former Rosenwald School student Linda M. White
Historical Marker Ceremony
• What: Dedication of marker commemorating Fauquier’s eight blacks-only Rosenwald Schools.

• Where: Eva Walker Park, Alexandria Pike, Warrenton

• When: 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 3; reception followed at First Baptist Church’s Family Life Center at 43 Alexandria Pike. 

• Length: About an hour and 15 minutes.

• Turnout: About 100.

• Speakers: Dr. Michael Blakey, College of William & Mary anthropology professor; Jerry Klinger, president of Jewish American Society of Historic Preservation.

• Host: Afro-American Historical Association of Fauquier County, The Plains.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Under a picture-perfect Saturday morning sky, about 100 people gathered at Warrenton’s Eva Walker Park to help dedicate a marker commemorating the county’s eight blacks-only Rosenwald Schools.

“Thank you for being a part of this momentous occasion,” Karen White Hughes, president of the Afro-American Historical Association of Fauquier, told the audience at the 10 a.m. ceremony.

“Together, we choose to remember and not forget the Rosenwald Schools of Fauquier County.”

Ms. White gave a brief history of the marker, recalling an email she received in April 2018 from Jerry Klinger, president of the Florida-based Jewish American Society of Historic Preservation.

Out of the blue, Mr. Klinger wrote to ask if her organization would be interested in a marker recognizing Fauquier’s Rosenwald Schools and the two men — Julies Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington — who partnered with communities to help build them.

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.

The schools sought to offset persistent underfunding of public education for African-American children in the South before desegregation. The effort built 382 Rosenwald Schools in Virginia between 1917 and 1932.

Before accepting the marker offer, Ms. White researched and several times discussed it with Mr. Klinger.

His nonprofit foundation paid $3,500 for specially treated aluminum sign, which former Rosenwald School students unveiled as part of the Aug. 3 ceremony.

One side of the marker incudes a history of Rosenwald Schools in Fauquier and Virginia; the other displays a map that locates the school sites and three photos of county Rosenwald schools.

Mr. Klinger called the marker “a silent sentinel” that “will be there telling your story of the American experience of commonality . . . . As the years pass and you drive down the street and see the marker, remember it’s talking about people like you and me who all have the same hopes and dreams.

“Our children will have the same hopes and dreams, and it will be together that we will realize that as one people.”

After Saturday’s dedication, several spoke about their experience as Rosenwald students during a lunch at First Baptist Church’s Family Life Center at 43 Alexandria Pike. 

“Everything we did in our lives involved the school, because the school was not just school, it was a community,” said Linda M. White, 67, who attended the Warrenton school. “We would have picnics on Sundays and play on the playground.”

The school also imparted more than book knowledge, the Ms. White added.

“We were taught how to be decent people” and “to be respectful and helpful to each other.”

Ms. White added: “I appreciate so much the history of black folks in this town. I’m proud to know each and every one of you. And, this made me the person that I am.”

Contact Don Del Rosso at Don@FauquierNow.com or 540-270-0300.
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