Historic designation for schools could preserve part of black history

MACON, Ga. -- The tin roof of the little red schoolhouse called Sugar Hill is caving in. The mossy pillars beneath it are starting to buckle.

But this school near Red Bone, a community near Barnesville, was once a pillar of a black community, built in 1925 when rural black residents rarely had schools at all. It was established with the help of the president of Sears, Roebuck & Co., a Chicago magnate who had never been to Lamar County.

His name, Julius Rosenwald, is rarely listed among the great benefactors of the early 20th century — the Pulitzers, Carnegies and Rockefellers who built libraries and created national parks.

But perhaps the omission is due to the nature of Rosenwald’s contribution: He helped fund the establishment of more than 5,000 schools for black children in the South between 1912 and 1932.

Among them were about 45 schools or homes for black teachers in Middle Georgia.

Most of them are gone. But this fall, the National Register of Historic Places officially recognized the historic significance of the Rosenwald schools in Georgia, paving the way for the protection of those that survive.

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