Congressman Steve Cohen

Representing the 9th District of Tennessee

Congressmen Cohen and Davis and Senator Durbin introduce the Julius Rosenwald and Rosenwald Schools Study Act

June 13, 2019
Press Release
Plan to commemorate Rosenwald philanthropy in the U.S. and internationally

WASHINGTON – Congressmen Steve Cohen (TN-09) and Danny Davis (IL-07) today introduced the Julius Rosenwald and Rosenwald Schools Study Act. The measure would begin the process to establish a national historic park to honor the life and legacy of Julius Rosenwald, a successful entrepreneur and renowned philanthropist who made lasting contributions to the advancement of African American education during the twentieth century. Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois introduced the companion measure in the Senate.

Rosenwald established the Julius Rosenwald Fund that partnered with local communities to create over 5,300 schools in the South to address the lack of education for African Americans. The Rosenwald Fund also supported the early NAACP cases that eventually led to Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, ending the “separate but equal” doctrine and segregation in public schools.  The fund also supported a number of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, including Fisk, Dillard, and Howard.

Congressman Cohen made the following statement:

“Julius Rosenwald was a visionary philanthropist whose philosophy of giving embodied the Jewish concept of tzedakah – social justice and charity. He partnered with African American communities across the South to help build schools for children with limited access to public education. At one time, one-third of all black students in the South received their education in a Rosenwald School. It is my hope that the study called for in this bill will ultimately lead to a national historical park linking still-standing Rosenwald schools and calling lasting attention to Rosenwald’s legacy.”

Congressman Davis made the following statement:

“Julius Rosenwald was an astute business executive, philanthropist, leader, and humanitarian.  I know the importance of the work that he did with education in the rural South. Many of the small towns where African Americans lived during his time had no school at all and, if they had one, it only went to the sixth or eighth grade. I began school in a one room schoolhouse with one teacher. Although I did not attend a Rosenwald school, I know the impact of their presence. As one who has lived in and represents the area where Sears Roebuck was headquartered, I understand the importance of his influence on the cultural and economic development of his presence in Chicago and throughout the world.”

Theresa Pierno, President and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association, said:

“The story of Julius Rosenwald, a philanthropist that changed the dynamics of education for African Americans in the early 20th century, and the thousands of schoolhouses he helped construct, is extraordinary. These schools are an important part of our country’s history, and must never be forgotten. Thanks to the leadership and tremendous political support of Senator Durbin and Congressmen Davis and Cohen, and the tireless efforts of NPCA’s members and supporters, communities and partners organizations across the country, we are one step closer to preserving Rosenwald’s legacy for millions of people to experience now and for generations to come.”