Hoffschwelle tells the story of a remarkable partnership to build model schools for black children during the Jim Crow era in the South. The Rosenwald program, which erected more than 5,300 schools and auxiliary buildings between 1912 and 1932, began with Booker T. Washington, then principal of Tuskegee Institute, who turned for financing to Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears, Roebuck & Company. By requiring communities to raise matching funds, the two men inspired a grassroots movement that built schools in 15 southern states.
The Rosenwald schools, scores of which still stand, exemplified the ideal educational environment designed for efficiency, making full use of natural light to protect children s eyesight, and providing sufficient space for learning. Ironically, these schools, which represented the social centers of their African American communities, also helped to set standards for white schools.
Though the program s funding ended with Rosenwald s death in 1932, many continued as public institutions. The National Trust for Historic Preservation named Rosenwald Schools to its list of America s Most Endangered Historic Places in 2002. Hoffschwelle examines these buildings as exemplars for school architecture and design, as community institutions and partnerships, and as a means of formalizing a state education program that, finally, would include black children. This story of extraordinary generosity and sacrifice will interest scholars of American and African American history, educators, school planners, and preservationists.