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Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09)

MEMPHIS — Congressmen Steve Cohen (TN-09) and Danny Davis (IL-07), who co-introduced H.R. 3250, the Julius Rosenwald and Rosenwald Schools Study Act, last June, applauded its passage by the House this afternoon by a vote of 387 to 5.

The measure begins the process of establishing a national historic park to honor the life and legacy of Julius Rosenwald, a successful entrepreneur and renowned philanthropist who made lasting contributions to the advancement of African American education during the twentieth century. Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois introduced a companion measure in the Senate. 

Rosenwald established the Julius Rosenwald Fund that partnered with local communities to create more than over 5,300 schools in the rural South to address the lack of education for African Americans. The Rosenwald Fund also supported the early NAACP cases that eventually led to Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, ending the “separate but equal” doctrine and segregation in public schools.  The fund also supported a number of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, including Fisk, Dillard, and Howard. 

The esteemed contralto singer Marian Anderson, discriminated against in the Jim Crow South, won a prestigious Julius Rosenwald Fellowship that allowed her to tour Europe, entertaining heads of state, making headlines in American newspapers and creating “Marian Mania” around the world. Returning to the United States, she was invited by President Franklin Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to play the White House in 1936 and, famously, sang “My Country ’Tis of Thee” from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday 1939 after being denied the stage of the Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall by segregationists.  

Congressman Cohen made the following statement: 

“Julius Rosenwald was a visionary philanthropist whose altruism and philosophy of giving embodied the Jewish concept of tzedakah – social justice and charity to those in need. He partnered with African American communities across the South to help build schools for children with limited access to good public education. At one time, one-third of all Black students in the rural South received their education in a Rosenwald School. It is my hope that the study called for in this bill will ultimately lead to a national historical park linking still-standing Rosenwald schools and calling lasting national attention to Mr. Rosenwald’s legacy. This is a history worthy of celebration.” 

Congressman Davis made the following statement when he introduced the bill in June:

“Julius Rosenwald was an astute business executive, philanthropist, leader, and humanitarian.  I know the importance of the work that he did with education in the rural South. Many of the small towns where African Americans lived during his time had no school at all and, if they had one, it only went to the sixth or eighth grade. I began school in a one room schoolhouse with one teacher. Although I did not attend a Rosenwald school, I know the impact of their presence. As one who has lived in and represents the area where Sears Roebuck was headquartered, I understand the importance of his influence on the cultural and economic development of his presence in Chicago and throughout the world.”