Do you know how Rosenwald schools connect to the history of Texas? Once home to 464 of these community structures, they were located predominately in the South and built principally for the education of African-American children in the early 20th century. After partnering with Booker T. Washington, Julius Rosenwald contributed seed money for the schools and stipulated collaboration between the segregated populations by requiring white school boards to operate and maintain the new schools.
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One such school was located in Shiloh, a small community in East Texas, within Gregg County. Although much of its population has dispersed, the history of this town is an essential window into the Reconstruction era as it unfolded in Texas. Traveling from South Carolina in the 1850s, Gideon Christian brought his family and 32 slaves here. After the Civil War, these former slaves congregated around the Shiloh Baptist Church and built up the community. Among the accomplishments of the newly-freed African Americans was the establishment of a school.
First, a one-room building was built, then a two-room school was erected in 1920, officially becoming a Rosenwald school. This structure was replaced in the 1930s by a large brick building. The Shiloh School closed in 1966 when segregation ended. Remains of the building are still standing. The area maintains the Shiloh Baptist Church and the adjoining graveyard, which has headstones dating to 1851.
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Another Rosenwald school in Texas was in Sweet Home, in Guadalupe County. A community established by emancipated slaves in 1877, it was home to a vocational and agricultural school from 1924 until 1962, providing education beyond eighth grade. The school contained four primary classrooms, a library, and a kitchen. Other buildings onsite were a house for teachers (which doubled as a home economics room), a girls’ dormitory, and an industrial building. The main building is still in use for community events; it is on the National Register of Historic Places. Did your town have a Rosenwald school and is it still intact today?