Bishop Frederick James and
the Rosenwald School in Prosperity
Bishop Frederick James in Rosenwald Howard Junior High School-Prosperity, SC.
Photo credit: AB
The central purpose of our recent trip to South Carolina was to videotape an interview with AME Bishop Frederick James (shown above) about efforts to fully restore Howard Junior High School (HJHS)--the Rosenwald School built in 1923-24 in Prosperity, SC, which he attended from 1st-10th grades in 1927-37. The fine education he received led to a distinguished career as theologian, educator, and community leader. His dream, at age 92, is to preserve this beloved school as a community resource for education, culture, and economic uplift in the 21st century.
The history of the Rosenwald schools is hardly known and needs to be. Briefly: Early in the 20th century, the Jewish philanthropist Julius Rosenwald learned from Booker T. Washington about the utter neglect of education for black children in the segregated South. Rosenwald established a Foundation which matched funds contributed by black and white populations in local communities. Over 5500 schools were built in 17 Southern states, enabling hundreds of thousands of black children to be educated in finely constructed, airy, sun-filled buildings. HJHS, which is on the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is among very few (about 500) Rosenwald buildings still in existence, and is considered to be particularly significant and beautiful.
"Restoring this school has kept my hopes alive, and my expectation is to finish this job in my lifetime," said Bishop James.
Interview participants at Shiloh AME Church in Prosperity, adjacent to HJHS, were: (seated, l-r)
Rudy Barnes, local attorney; Mike Bedenbaugh, Executive Director of the Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation; Bishop Frederick James; Rev. Dr. Elaine Eskew, pastor of Shiloh AME Church;
(standing, l-r) Cecil Williams, noted Orangeburg civil rights photographer and videographer for this interview; Rev. Eddie Mayes of Columbia; Alice Bernstein; Allan Michael.
Photo credit: Barbara Williams.
The Alliance is honored that our work is a means of furthering knowledge about and preservation of the legacy of Rosenwald schools. We are proud to join with Bishop James and other distinguished South Carolinians to explore programs, based on Aesthetic Realism, which enable education to succeed for every child, and for justice to all people to become a living reality now and in the future.
Recent Interviews with Unsung Pioneers--
North, South, East, & West!
We are proud that our oral history is now included in the Library of Congress Civil Rights Oral History Projects database.* Here are some of the exciting people I had the honor to interview this year for "The Force of Ethics in Civil Rights" oral history project.
Dr. Charles E. Crutchfield, Sr., born in Jasper, Alabama
in the Jim Crow era of segregation, earned his medical
degree in Minnesota in 1963, and in 1969 was the state's
first obstetrician-gynecologist of color. To date he's delivered about 9,000 babies, and is dedicated to accessible healthcare for all.
Vivian Callender, in Chicago, preserved the legacy of her father, Rupert Callender, one of the earliest black advertising photographers and illustrators in New York
City, and co-founder of one of the first black modeling agencies. Vivian was the first black Gerber baby, Clairol child model, Sealtest Milk child in a print ad, and Bassette Furniture child.
Isaac Byrd, Jr., born in the Mississippi Delta, is an award-winning civil rights attorney who founded his own firm,
Byrd & Associates. He studied education at Tougaloo College, and went on to make a major impact on the Ayers higher education settlement in Mississippi which led to greater endowments for Historically Black Institutions. His story includes his memories of the Jewish refugee scholar Dr. Ernst Borinski, who taught sociology at Tougaloo College for many decades.
Calvin Alexander Ramsey, playwright and author (born in Maryland), researched the author of The Negro Motorist
Green Book: Victor Green, an African American postal worker. Green's guide began in 1936, and provided black people with the first directory enabling them to drive and
rest "safely" in the segregated South, locating restaurants,
gas stations, and hotels that would welcome them.
*Link to the LOC database.