Arts

Learning From Design Of Rosenwald’s Rural Southern Schools

By the 1930s, there were more than 5,000 Rosenwald schools built around the rural South.
By the 1930s, there were more than 5,000 Rosenwald schools built around the rural South.
Credit COURTESY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA LIBRARY.

In the early, schoolhouses began popping up in African-American communities all around the rural South. The buildings looked simple, but their impact was significant. They provided many Southern black children with their first opportunity to receive an education.

Eventually, they would become known as the Rosenwald Schools because a Chicago businessman and philanthropist named Julius Rosenwald helped make them a reality.

A new documentary playing at Atlanta’s Midtown Art Cinema, titled “Rosenwald,” tells the story of this school building campaign. It inspired University of Pennsylvania architecture professor Witold Rybczynski to explore the unique design of the Rosenwald schools in an article for Architect Magazine.

In the interview above with WABE’s Stephannie Stokes, Rybczynski highlights how the schools employed certain design innovations, such as windows that maximized natural light, and explains why there might be lessons for today’s architecture community in Rosenwald’s school building program.

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