Smyrna Rosenwald School in Rutherford County is one of the schools featured in the new exhibit, Building a Bright Future: Black Communities and Rosenwald Schools in Tennessee, open now through February 25, 2024 at the Tennessee State Museum.
The community-focused exhibition highlights the work of alumni, descendants, and organizations to preserve the legacies of Rosenwald Schools across the state. This is the second Tennessee State Museum show centered on Rosenwald Schools, following the travelling photography exhibit by Andrew Feiler, A Better Life for Their Children: Julius Rosenwald, Booker T. Washington, and the 4,978 Schools that Changed America, which closed in May.
What are Rosenwald Schools?
What are commonly referred to as Rosenwald Schools were the result of an initial partnership between Sears, Roebuck, Julius Rosenwald, Tuskegee Institute president Booker T. Washington, and Black Communities throughout the South.
Between 1912-1937, that partnership resulted in the construction of almost 5,000 schools for Black children across 15 southern states, including 354 in Tennessee. Rosenwald schools drove improvement in Black educational attainment and helped educate the generation who became leaders of the Civil Rights movement.
About the exhibit
Building a Bright Future: Black Communities and Rosenwald Schools in Tennessee leads the visitor through the development of Rosenwald Schools and their legacies by first tracing the history of education for Black Tennesseans beginning with the Reconstruction period.
It explores early partnerships between churches, schools and agencies like the Freedmen’s Bureau, and the work of Black leaders, residents, parents, and teachers to improve educational opportunities for Black students.
Featured exhibit topics include Black Education before 1912, Black Tennesseans and Rosenwald Schools (1912-1960s), and the Legacies of Rosenwald School Communities.
Schools represented include:
- Dunbar Rosenwald School, Loudon County, East Tennessee
- Hohenwald Rosenwald School, Lewis County, Middle Tennessee
- Lincoln School, Bledsoe County, East Tennessee
- Manassas High School, Shelby County, West Tennessee
- Multiple Schools, Maury County, Middle Tennessee
- Multiple Schools, Sumner County, Middle Tennessee
- Polk-Clark School, Gibson County, West Tennessee
- Smyrna Rosenwald School, Rutherford County, Middle Tennessee
- Tanner School, Cocke County, East Tennessee
- Townsend School, Franklin County, Middle Tennessee
- Trenton Rosenwald School, Gibson County, West Tennessee
- Ward School, Trousdale County, Middle Tennessee
- Wareld School, Montgomery County, Middle Tennessee
- Webb School, Carroll County, West Tennessee
- West Bemis Rosenwald School, Madison County, West Tennessee
- Wilson County Training School, Wilson County, Middle Tennessee
The Museum is free and open to the public Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sundays from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. For more information on exhibitions and events, please visit TNMuseum.org.