Statement of Support - Julius Rosenwald & Rosenwald Schools National Historical Park


April 7, 2022

Dr. Dorothy Canter, President
Rosenwald Park Campaign
19 Maplewood Park Court
Bethesda, MD 20814

Dear Dr. Canter:

On behalf of the Lincoln Presidential Foundation, I write to express our support of the creation of the Julius Rosenwald & Rosenwald Schools National Historical Park. Last month, our Foundation entered into an agreement with the National Park Service to pilot philanthropic support of the Lincoln Home National Historic Site (LIHO).  Julius Rosenwald’s boyhood home is located within LIHO, diagonally across the street from Abraham Lincoln’s home.  The Rosenwald story is inextricably linked to our nation’s story of freedom, justice, and equality and the crucial role of universal education in a healthy democracy.

The son of German-Jewish immigrants, Julius Rosenwald helped make Sears, Roebuck & Company into the retailing powerhouse of the early twentieth century. He then used his considerable wealth to effect positive change through transformative philanthropy. He helped fund nearly 5,000 Rosenwald Schools in 15 states of the segregated South, partnering with Booker T. Washington and the African American communities where schools would be located. Congressman John Lewis and poet Maya Angelou attended Rosenwald Schools.

The Julius Rosenwald Fund did more than build schools.  The Fund assisted in the purchase of school buses, sets of books for rural schools, and the creation of county public library systems in the South.  The Fund provided fellowships to nearly 900 highly talented people, two-thirds of whom were African Americans. Fellowship recipients included Ralph Bunche, Dr. Charles Drew, Marian Anderson, Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Jacob Lawrence, Katherine Dunham and Gordon Parks.  A number of HBCUs, including Tuskegee, Howard, Atlanta, Dillard, Fisk, and Morehouse received support from the Julius Rosenwald Fund. The Fund also provided early support for the NAACP, which helped lead to the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case before the Supreme Court. Rosenwald also contributed to numerous Jewish charities, helping to found the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and serving as its first President. He was the founding donor of Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry and served on the board of Jane Addams' Hull House for 20 years. 

The legacy of Julius Rosenwald and the Rosenwald Schools needs to be preserved and understood as a uniquely American story with links across time and place.  Adding a Rosenwald unit to the National Park System would create the first unit that commemorates the life and legacy of a Jewish American and tell a little-known national story of early twentieth century African American and Jewish American history.

With appreciation,

Erin Carlson Mast
President and CEO