Preservation Program on Rosenwald Schools

Mount Olive Church near Rosenwald School. Photo by Kieta Osteen-Cochrane

Mount Olive Church near Rosenwald School. Photo by Kieta Osteen-Cochrane

The Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County (PSABC), in partnership with the Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald Society, will present a program on the Anderson Rosenwald School, the only remaining intact school of its kind in Western North Carolina. The program will take place on Saturday, November 9, at 11 a.m.

Rosenwald Schools were built across the South between the years 1912 and 1932 for the education of African American children. The effort was a collaboration between Booker T. Washington of the Tuskegee Institute and philanthropist Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears-Roebuck. The Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School, built in the late 1920s, was one of more than 5,300 built in 15 states. Like many other Rosenwald Schools across the country, the one-room building was left to fall into disrepair.

Over the past ten years, a dedicated committee of volunteers raised funds and worked tirelessly to restore the building inside and out. The team was led by Willa Wyatt, chair of the Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School Renovation committee and a former Madison County educator, who will present part of the program. Wyatt and her husband, former Haywood County school superintendent David Wyatt, attended the inaugural National Rosenwald School Conference at Tuskegee University, the birthplace of the program. They learned that less than 15 percent of the 5,300 original Rosewald Schools are still standing. “Although we were novices on historical rehabilitation, upon our return home we were even more ready to help with the project,” says Wyatt. “On the national level, the Rosenwald School building program is recognized as one of the most important partnerships to advance African American education in the 20th century. Only a few remain today, so preservation and documentation of these historic sites are paramount.”

The program will begin at Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church, where a group will perform songs that were sung by African American children who attended the school. The group will then take a short walk to the Rosenwald School for the main program, which will include former students of the school.

Van transportation is available to make this program accessible. Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church is located at 40 Mount Olive Drive in Mars Hill. For more information, visit PSABC.org.

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