University of Memphis Photo
Rosenwald Exhibit Will Spotlight African-American Schools University News
For release: April 21, 2010

For press information, contact Jenny Hornby, 573-620-4709

Between 1912 and 1932, philanthropist Julius Rosenwald donated millions of dollars to help develop nearly 5,000 African-American rural schools throughout the South. Shelby County had the largest number of Rosenwald-funded buildings in Tennessee, with 61 schools, four teachers’ homes and three shop buildings.

An exhibit at the University of Memphis will spotlight some of these schools and celebrate the rich heritage of Memphis. “African-American Education in Shelby County: The Rosenwald Schools” will be on display April 26-May 14 at the Ned R. McWherter Library, in the rotunda and on the second floor. An opening reception will be held April 26 at noon on the second floor of the library. The reception and exhibit are free and open to the public.

The collection includes photographs and historical documents uncovered during research by Jenny Hornby, Chantal Drake and Michelle Williams, graduate students in art history at the U of M. Highlighting the historically black Manassas, Melrose, Wells and Cordova schools, the exhibit explores how these early 20th-century schools were cornerstones of local African-American communities, creating an enduring impact on Memphis and the surrounding area.

The exhibit also features contemporary images by Michael Darough, an MFA photography student in the Department of Art.

Born in 1863 in Springfield, Ill., Rosenwald was a noted businessman and philanthropist. He started his career as a clothing manufacturer and later became a part owner of Sears Roebuck and Co. The company prospered under his leadership, and he was named president in 1908. The millions of dollars he earned during his 16 years of service were returned in large measure to the American public.

Rosenwald began his substantial contribution to African-American education in 1911 when he formed a partnership with Booker T. Washington. Together they established the Julius Rosenwald Fund that aimed to provide a quality education to African-American children in the rural South.

The exhibit is made possible with the support of the Department of Art and the McWherter Library. Following the exhibition, the resource materials and historical information will be accessible to the public in the Special Collections Department of the library.

For more information, contact Jenny Hornby at 573-620-4709 or, or Tom Mendina at 901-678-4310 or

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