A tribute to the productive partnership between Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald, a now largely forgotten philanthropist who made his fortune in the retail business as the president of Sears, Roebuck and Company.
The two met in Chicago in 1911: “Washington regularly cultivated wealthy people who might donate money to Tuskegee Institute” and Rosenwald was “interested in using his money promote the well-being of African Americans.” Both were well known and well respected at the time of their first encounter. But where Rosenwald was the middle-class son of Jewish immigrant parents who worked their way from poverty into affluence, Washington was an ex-slave who had to fight for everything he had, including an education. Their remarkable collaboration produced almost 5,000 "Rosenwald schools" scattered throughout “every state of the American South, from Maryland to Texas.” Black children otherwise denied access to public instruction because of Jim Crow laws could count on receiving a quality education that would help them improve their lives. But the Rosenwald schools did more than educate a black underclass that lived in the shadow of a racist white society. As Deutsch notes, they gave rise to “the parents of the generation who marched and sang and risked their lives in the revolution for equal justice under law.”
A moving, inspirational story about an important link in the historical chain that led to the civil-rights movement and a new, more truly democratic chapter in American history.