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Waynesboro’s Rosenwald School celebrates 100 years of education, community

Rebecca Barnabi
(© Gary L Hider – stock.adobe.com)

Julius Rosenwald was a Jewish American and part owner of Sears, Roebuck and Co. in the late 1800s.

Concerned about Black Americans, he created the Rosenwald Fund, from which more than 5,000 schools and shops were built in the southern United States starting in 1913. The schools came to be known as Rosenwald Schools.

Waynesboro’s Rosenwald School, built in 1924, was the center of life and the community in Port Republic until the integration of the American public school system. Today the building at 413 Port Republic Road is called the Rosenwald Community Center and is again the center of the community. The building houses the Black History Museum. The city of Waynesboro’s Parks & Recreation Department came to call the building home in 1982.

A 100th Anniversary Celebration of the Waynesboro Rosenwald School will be held Thursday, April 4, 2024, at 1:30 p.m. in Osher Lifelong Learning Institute’s (OLLI) new classroom, 1 Morton Drive, Terrace Level, Charlottesville.

“Standing on Their Shoulders: Rosenwald School and the Local Hidden Figures” will include Rosenwald alumni Chris Wilmott, award-winning newspaper reporter and Booker T. Washington High School alumni Terry Howard and Horace Scruggs, a documentary filmmaker and UVA OLLI instructor.

According to Carol Bingaman, a member of UVA OLLI’s board of directors and curriculum committee who lives in Waynesboro, the event will focus on unsung heroes of Rosenwald and individuals who made an impact on the community, which were the teachers at Rosenwald.

“What we’re trying to do is invite the people we feel will go back to Waynesboro and talk about [the history of Rosenwald],” Bingaman said.

Scruggs has interviewed five Rosenwald alumni who attended during integration. Footage of his documentary will be shown on April 4. Individuals interested in attending are encouraged to email Bingaman at [email protected].

Only 20 percent of Rosenwald Schools are estimated to remain standing today.

Waynesboro’s Rosenwald School was built for approximately $11,000, had four classrooms and opened in 1926 with Principal Elbert Terry. The first Rosenwald high school class graduated in 1937.

In 1959, all of the original Rosenwald School building was demolished, except for the gymnasium and two classrooms built in 1952.

The last high school graduating class matriculated in 1965. Through 1966, integration began and Black students began to attend Kate Collins Middle and Waynesboro High schools.

Rosenwald School became Wayne Hills Upper School. The name returned to Rosenwald in 1970.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.