What Can the Rosenwald Schools Teach Us?

The Rosenwald school in East Flat Rock was completed in 1923 and closed in 1951.

Around 5,000 Rosenwald Schools were built in the American South in the early part of the last century, a collaboration between philanthropist Julius Rosenwald and titan educator Booker T. Washington. The schools provided opportunities for African-American children in the pre-integration Jim Crow era, when many received vastly inferior formal education (or no education at all).

Out of 800 Rosenwald Schools built in NC, only one survives whole in the western part of the state: The Anderson Rosenwald School in Mars Hill. But a few physical remnants of the school in East Flat Rock — a chimney, for instance — still survive. Perhaps more importantly, we still have voices from the era. This month, Bold Life talks to Hortence Potts, age 90, who lives on the property of the old school and graduated from it to become an educator herself. An upcoming honors Potts and other local residents connected with the Rosenwald schools, as well as addressing future plans to enliven the legacy. www.boldlife.com/learning-from-the-past

The Blue Ridge Center for Lifelong Learning presents a program on the Rosenwald Schools Wednesday, May 17, 10am-noon (180 West Campus Drive, Flat Rock). $30/general admission, $20/BRCLL members. From 1-3pm, a free community event will be held in the same location, with appearances by alumni of Rosenwald Schools, including Hortense Potts of East Flat Rock and former students of the Anderson Rosenwald School in Mars Hill. For more information, visit brcll.com or call 828-694-1740.

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