Original Rosenwald School

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Corner of Lamarque and Livingston Streets. The Rosenwald School, circa 1930.

In 1919 black ex-slave Booker T. Washington who headed the Tuskegee institute approached Julius Rosenwald a northern, German-Jewish immigrant’s son who had joined a young, Sears Roebuck and Company in 1897, with the idea to pilot a rural school building program for African American students.

rosenwald-one-teacher-school-plan

"Booker T. Washington’s vision of rural schools caught Rosenwald’s imagination. Together, the idea-man and the money-man hammered out an early example of a now-common philanthropic tool: the matching grant. If a rural black community could scrape together a contribution, and if the white school board would agree to operate the facility, Rosenwald would contribute cash – usually about 1/5 of the total project. The aim was quietly radical, a Rosenwald Fund official wrote; "not merely a series of schoolhouses, but a community enterprise in cooperation between citizens and officials, white and colored.”

By 1932 when the construction grants ended, 5357 new buildings stood in 883 counties throughout fifteen states. In Louisiana the first of 435 schools was built in 1916 and this is the site of Mandeville’s first school.

Source: historysouth.org, Southern Jewish Life, sjmag.com; May 29,2013

A second Rosenwald School replaced this one in the early 1960s. It was located at the end of Livingston Street where it meets Little Bayou Castaine, just 2 blocks east.

The Louisiana Constitution of 1868 called for the integration of all public funded schools. This order was generally ignored. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave all students the 'freedom of choice' to attend any public school. Schools continued to be segregated. The Federal Courts intervened and, during the 1968/69 school year, ordered the closing of many all-black schools to speed the process of integration. Mandeville Rosenwald was one of those schools.

Before the school reopened as Mandeville Middle School the following school year there was a confrontation with the School Board over the appointment of the principal. The parents of the Rosenwald students heavily promoted the appointment of well-respected former Rosenwald principal, Joseph R Williams. However, the Board appointed former Mandeville High principal Martin Simmons to the post. The school reopened with no incidents.

Woodlake Elementary School now occupies this site.

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