JULIUS ROSENWALD Biography - Bussiness people and enterpreneurs


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Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932),                                                         
Its title is long: "Julius Rosenwald: The Man Who Built Sears, Roebuck and             
Advanced the Cause of Black Education in the American South." And that title           
pretty much tells the story. But let me elaborate just a tad. Rosenwald is             
credited with making Sears the largest mail-order firm in the world. That's           
accomplishment enough for almost any man. But Rosenwald went on to become one of       
the most generous and creative philanthropists of his generation. It's for his         
financing of schools for black children in the Jim Crow South that he is best         
remembered today.                                                                     
It began with a gift of $25,000 to Tuskegee Institute in 1912, which was then         
under the leadership of the charimatic (and these days much-underappreciated)         
Booker T. Washington. Together they devised a plan to build thousands of "Rosenwald   
Schools" across the rural South with challenge grants to the local government         
authorities. The schools were small--just a little better than one room--but           
they provided a chance at education for thousands of young black children. In         
the end, there were over 5000 and 4000 little libraries to go with them. No           
doubt there are many Americans alive today who learned to read at a Rosenwald         
I was on a rather remote island in the South Carolina Low Country about a year         
ago (I finally got the right shoes), and I came across a rundown structure that       
I thought might have been a schoolhouse. Someone had been cleaning it out and         
there were books thrown away that had been rained on and were beginning to mold.       
I picked one of them up--"Great South Carolinians." Its copyright was 1940. As I       
was paging through it, I noticed that on its title page it was stamped "For Use       
in Colored Schools." I tucked it under my arm and took it with me and wondered         
if I might be looking at one of the old Rosenwald Schools. I still don't know,         
but I like to think it was.