“Although the buildings were certainly impressive, it was the human experience that made visits to Tuskegee so powerful. Maggie Washington entertained guests with gracious receptions at the Oaks, where visitors got to know other members of the school's staff: Washington's capable young secretary Emmett Scott; the Tuskegee treasurer Warren Logan, who had been at the school almost since its founding, and his college-educated wife Adella; Booker's brothers John and James Washington and their families; the brilliant George Washington Carver. They and many others strove to give their guests a good impression. That the situation was contrived did not make it less meaningful.”
This passage comes from a new book titled You Need a Schoolhouse. Written by Stephanie Deutsch, it tells the story of two men who are largely forgotten today, educator Booker T. Washington and wealthy businessman Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears, Roebuck and Company. The two men met and came to trust each other, and their collaboration led to the building of five thousand schoolhouses for and by communities in the South, in the era leading up to the civil rights movement.
The passage continues:
“The Rosenwalds' group visits to Tuskegee placed under the feet of Northern whites and southern blacks common ground that they might not have found elsewhere. As they toured the campus, as they visited immaculate classrooms in the well-designed and well-constructed buildings, as they were introduced to students and faculty, the visitors were favorably impressed. The young black men and women studying English and mathematics, geography, history, and science, their dress and behavior regulated by Tuskegee's strict code (which included daily inspection for neatness and grooming and did not allow them to chew gum or go out more than two nights a week), were polite and respectful. At each stop of their campus tours – the classrooms, the model kindergarten, the farm with its 'piggery,' the laundry, the brickyard, and the printing shop – Julius and Gussie talked with young men and women the ages of their own children but from backgrounds vastly different.”
You Need a Schoolhouse is a fascinating look at two people who saw a great need and sought the means to help fill it.
Be sure to read all about it!
Copyright © 2012, S. Halversen.
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