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Rosenwald Schools in Mississippi lesson plan


The underfunding of public education for African-American children in the former Confederate states led to the creation in 1912 of the Rosenwald Fund, an alliance between Booker T. Washington, founder of Tuskegee Institute, and Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears, Roebuck & Co. Due to this philanthropic effort in the early 20th century, more than six hundred schools, houses for teachers, and vocational shops were built in Mississippi to educate African-American children. By 1932, the Rosenwald Fund ended its school building program, and only fifteen of the original structures built in Mississippi still exist today.


Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies 1 and 3.


Grades 7 through 12



The students will:

  • Determine the relationship between historical events.
  • Compare and contrast Rosenwald schools to existing schools in their community.
  • Design an ideal school.


The teacher will ask the students the following questions:

1. When a community has a need to build a new school, how is funding secured for the new school?

2. Has there ever been a time when public funding was not equally distributed to support the building of new schools and the purchase of educational resources?

3. What is a philanthropist?

4. Has public education in Mississippi ever benefited from philanthropic efforts?

The teacher will inform the students that over the next several days they will learn about philanthropist Julius Rosenwald and the building of Rosenwald schools in Mississippi.


• Have students copy the web at the end of this lesson plan onto a sheet of paper. Instruct students to use the Mississippi History Now article on the Rosenwald schools to determine how each term relates to these schools in Mississippi. Students should list three points about each term onto the web by a connecting line from the point to the appropriate term. Students can work with a partner or independently on this portion of the lesson.

• The teacher will facilitate a discussion about Rosenwald schools in Mississippi by allowing student volunteers to share the points they listed on their web. By using an overhead projector or chalkboard, the teacher can record student responses during the discussion.

• In a Think-Pair-Share activity, ask students to consider how their school differs from the Rosenwald schools described in the Mississippi History Now article. Allow students to share their thoughts with their neighbors. Once the students have had a few minutes to discuss the question, ask for student pairs to share examples of how the Rosenwald schools differ from their current schools.

• Place students in groups of three. Allow students to design their ideal school. The students should also determine the curriculum that would be offered at their ideal school, as well as the location of the school. The teacher may want students to report the location, design, and school curriculum in a formal/informal report form.


Each student group will present their ideal school project to the class.


  • Class discussion
  • Web
  • School design projects


Students can research the location and current state of Rosenwald schools in Mississippi.

Students can write a letter to the appropriate agency expressing the need to renovate and preserve the remaining Rosenwald schools in Mississippi.

Students can design a public campaign to draw attention to the need to preserve the Rosenwald schools. Radio announcements, television commercials, and newspaper advertisements can be included in the public campaign.

(Rosenwald school web)

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