Community meeting

National Park Partners Invite Public to Chattanooga Rosenwald Schools Community Reunion

National Park Partners invites the public to a community meeting on Thursday, April 21 for a roundtable to support the inclusion of Chattanooga stories in the Rosenwald Schools National Historic Park campaign. Meeting attendees will discuss ideas for the design and placement of plaques commemorating the eight Rosenwald Schools once located in Chattanooga. To further ensure that the legacy of these local schools is preserved for the future, the national park partners will register interested participants in the Oral History Collection for online preservation and inclusion in a series of podcasts that will be hosted on WUTC honoring the history of the Rosenwald Schools of Chattanooga. .

Hosted at RISE Chattanooga, formerly Jazzanooga, the meeting will take place at 2901 Taylor St. and begin at 6 p.m. Registration is required for this free event and light refreshments will be provided. Register online to participate at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/chattanooga-rosenwald-schools-rosenwald-national-park-campaign-tickets-313506946717. Participants can also attend the meeting remotely via Zoom on https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89728060647.

Representative Greg Vital, Campaign Chair Dr. Dorothy Canter, and Jerry Klinger of the American Jewish Society for Historic Preservation will speak to attendees about regional and national efforts to honor the legacy of the Rosenwald Schools. Sears tycoon Julius Rosenwald and former slave Booker T. Washington became friends in the early 1900s and were an unlikely duo whose work together changed the trajectory of education for Southern families. Washington invited the Jewish leader and businessman to join the board of trustees of the Tuskegee Institute, forming a friendship that has led to the education of more than 662,000 black students in the South, fostering community growth and broadening the landscape of philanthropy.

Both men were passionate about increasing opportunity for African Americans and saw education as the vehicle for that success and the movement created by these men has been called the most important initiative to advance the education of Blacks in the early 20th century. Rep. Vital, past president of the National Parks Conservation Association, said, “When I first heard about Rosenwald Schools, I knew there must be a strong connection to Chattanooga and I’m thrilled that the stories of our community are preserved for the future. Representative Vital hosted Dr. Canter in Chattanooga during the 2021 Moccasin Bend Lecture Series; the recording of his fascinating lecture is available on the National Park Partners YouTube channel (look here).

Chattanooga had eight Rosenwald Schools and those connected to these schools are invited to share their memories, photographs and stories. Eight Rosenwald Schools were built in the Chattanooga area, including Bakewell, Booker T. Washington, Chickamauga, Georgetown, Hixson, Roland W. Hayes, Summit, and Washington School. Constructed between 1922 and 1929, none of these original buildings remain, but details, stories and anecdotes about them and their role in their respective communities are solicited. Roland W. Hayes was the main source of water for many households in his community, serving not only as a place of learning for his children, but also as a hub for his families. Janice Gooden, a proud alumnus of Roland Hayes, explains that “I believe it is important to save stories about our schools because of the important role they have played in the development of our character”, continues to say, “in addition to receiving an education, we received love and attention from our teachers.