Federal Grant to Assess Rosenwald Schools in Virginia

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell has announced $500,000 in grants to help fund projects across the country that tell the story of under-represented communities, including African Americans, women, native Americans and LGBTQ Americans.

The Virginia Department of Historic Resources will receive $50,000 to survey historic African American schools in order to assess how best to restore them, commemorate them and, when appropriate, repurpose them.

Booker T. Washington of the Tuskegee Institute and Julius Rosenwald, philanthropist and president of Sears Roebuck, built over 5,000 schools in the rural South for African Americans between 1917 and 1932.  Attending a Rosenwald School put a student at the vanguard of education for southern African-American children. By 1928, one-third of the South’s rural black school children attended Rosenwald Schools.

Virginia had 364 Rosenwald Schools. Rappahannock County, a gateway community of Shenandoah National Park, had three Rosenwald schools: Flint Hill, Amissville and Scrabble. Scrabble is the only remaining Rosenwald School in the county. It opened in 1921 and closed in 1967, when the county schools were finally integrated. Abandoned and nearly forgotten after it was closed, Scrabble School re-opened in 2009 after an extensive restoration. The building is now the home of the Rappahannock Senior Center at Scrabble School. It also houses the Rappahannock African-American Heritage Center, which features an exhibit that tells the story of the school, the community it once served, and its place in local, state, and national history.

The federal grant awarded to Virginia’s Department of Historic Resources will lead to similar restoration projects at Rosenwald Schools across the state.  To learn more, click here to view a slide presentation from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources about these school sites.

National Park Service map