The Rosenwald Centennial Project
Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932) was a Chicago businessman, philanthropist and part-owner of Sears, Roebuck and Company whose German-Jewish family fled persecution in Europe. Rosenwald believed that all Americans deserve the opportunity to an education and established the Rosenwald Foundation for "the well-being of mankind."
1912: Rosenwald became a trustee of the Tuskeegee Institute and began to work closely with educator and former slave, Booker T. Washington and the Institute to implement guidelines for the Rosenwald Fund to increase African American educational opportunities.
1917: Knowing that in most cases, black school children in the rural south were not provided books, classrooms or teachers, relying primarily on inadequately educated parents, churches and "Sunday School" to fulfill their community's educational needs, the Tuskegee Institute and the Julius Rosenwald Fund began to build rural school buildings , benefiting over 663,615 colored children in 15 states across the Jim Crow south. Many of the the schools became community centers for local residents.
The fund donated over $63 million and built over 5,357 schools, 200 Teacher's Residences, 163 workshops and 5 vocational high schools for African American Children. Rosenwald also supported colleges other than Tuskeegee: Howard, Fisk, Atlanta andDillard Universities all received portions of over $2 million while contributing to museums, hospitals , relief agencies, scientific research, fine arts and even individual artists (Marion Anderson, Dortothy Danbridge, etc)
JANUARY, 2021: The Julius Rosenwald and Rosenwald Schools Study Act was signed into Law in congress . See more on the Rosenwald Legacy initiative to make a Rosenwald National Park.
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THE TEXAS INITIATIVE:
Beginning in 1920 and continuing until 1931, the Rosenwald fund changed destinies in Texas. During that timespan, the Rosenwald Fund donated $980,615 in matching grants to build 79 schools and over 500 supplemental buildings in Texas.
Guidelines for the schools were strict.
Before funds could be disbursed, the fund required that...
Records show that the cash breakdown to fund Huntsville's original Rosenwald School #1 was as follows
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JULIUS ROSENWALD AND HIS LEGACY
John Wesley Wilson (8/12/1860-4/20/1948) and Amarintha Kittrell Wilson (8/9/1864-4/4/1944) granddaughter to Doc Pleasant William Kittrell) had 12 children: Charlie (1888-1968), shown in the famous 1898 wedding photo on the 2nd row at the age of 10), Woodrow (06/01/1889), Juanita (1891-1913), Eloise (“Lovie”) (09/18/1898-1998), Lydia (01/24/1903-05/10/2000), Jack (07/1906), George Henry (1939-1951), John (03/1919), Fannie/Sylvia (08/1920-1975), Ann/Bunny Wilson Welcome (05/1921), Fred (02/1928). .
John Wesley, (shown here standing on the back row) son of Virginia Houston Wilson (12/14/1846-10/9/1902) and George Wilson; was an English instructor at Sam Houston State Teacher's College. Amarintha was the granddaughter of Huntsville's famous Doc Pleasant William Kittrell and sister to Doc Pleasant Kittrell.
John and Amarintha were both well-educated and very concerned about providing a formal education for their little brown grandchildren.
03/05/1915: The Rosenwald Fund was past the planning stages and being implemented in Georgia and other southern states. Though Texas' implementation was delayed by segregationists, word traveled of the criteria. John and Amarintha purchased 2 acres of land from Sally E Gibbs (C.R. Smith Survey, Walker County Abstract 510, Cert. 74).
08/14/1920: As per Rosenwald guidelines, the couple formally deeded the 2 acres of land they had purchased from Sally E Gibbs 5 years before to the Huntsville Independent School District for the creation of the school. This was also around the same time that the Rosenwald Fund began heavily investing in the funding dormitories for John Wesley's cousin's impressive Samuel Walker Houston Industrial and vocational institute on Highway 30.
See more on the ties of the Samuel Walker Houston Museum and its founder's historical ties the Rosewald Fund at
With the expertise of Head Teacher, Ms. Ester Bridges (shown here from an article in the Huntsville Item, 12/14/1993), Maddy Jewel Walker, Thelma McGuire, Mary Helen Wilson (alumni & granddaughter of John & Amarintha), plus other fine educators and volunteers from the Kittrell, Wilson, Spivey, Cotton, Wiley, Vann, Baker, Crawford, Houston families et.al, Rosenwald School grew until "Rosenwald School Road" was the place to go for meetings, events, picnics, horse & foot races, basketball, etc.
The road leading north to the school from downtown Huntsville became known as the "Rosenwald School Road." long after the school was demolished, until late in the 20th century. This name was eventually shortened and inaccurately spelled "Rosenwall Road."
Rosenwald School was a two-room, wooden building with a breezeway between the classrooms. There were two "out-house" toilets located behind the school. One for boys and one for the girls. The fund provided schematics for both the school building and the toilets. Older students would help with maintenance and sometimes even drive the community school bus.
Pearl Spivey Wilson (1898-1952) shown here in 1915 , as a teenager standing with her seated sister Clarisse Spivey Wiley
The school reportedly maintained a lovely flower garden near the front where the community school bus stopped. A small basketball court built in the front of the property and the road in front of the school became a popular place for community gatherings, horse races, track meets and other sporting contests.
The Rosenwald School was located just down the road from the Kittrell homestead, around the corner and contiguous to Charlie and George Wilson's ranches. Most of Amarintha Kittrell Wilson's grandchildren attended the school, she had a vested interest in ensuring they were well fed. She therefore, managed the Kitchen constructed near the school's bucket-drop well.
The school's Kitchen building was amply stocked and maintained by the surrounding community-- spearheaded by the Wilson and Kittrell families. Collectively, these were hard-working folk who had not only cows, pigs, chickens but hundreds of acres of farm land surrounded by woods with abundant deer, wild hogs, rabbits, raccoons, armadillos and other wildlife. This kept the school well-stocked with supplies--even through the depression years.
Charlie Wilson (9/16/1888-1/25/1968) (John & Amarintha's eldest son) and Pearl Spivey Wilson (1898-1952) had 8 children: Allen, Rilla Pearl, John, Mary Helen, Rufus, O’Neal/Bob, Cloteal and Raymond.
Generational management of the Kitchen continued as Pearl Spivey Wilson and "Ms. Creasy" (perhaps the shortened version of her elder sister "Clarisse" Spivey Wiley) took over Rosenwald kitchen duties from her mother-in-law as Amarintha’s ealth waned.
Kitchen volunteers were often helped by extended family members including Pearl's sister-in-law Beatrice Nauls Wilson (wife of George Wamon Wilson) and daughter-in-law, Ethel Crawford Wilson (wife of Rufus Wilson).
Rilla Pearl Wilson, Pearl's eldest daughter, (12/13/1925-12/19/1987) helped her mom in the kitchen before moving to open a Hair Salon in Houston. Her son, Charles Hightower Jr. attended the school until, upon his grandmother Pearl's death, he was sent to live with his estranged father in California.
Rufus Wilson 3/2/1931-11/26/1990) and Ethel Crawford Wilson had 2 children: Rufus Jr. and Aisha Delores. Rufus was the son of Charlie and Pearl.
The couple helped maintain the Wilson homestead as other family members expired or moved away from Huntsville. Rufus used the school's vacant acres for over 20 years to house, train and breed his livestock. The corral he built still stands.
06/22/1962: The Rosenwald School building was dismantled and the Huntsville ISD sold the school's 2 acres to David Branch Jr. for $550
03/15/1963: David Branch Jr sold the property back to Charlie Wilson for $150. Mary Helen asked her father to leave her beloved school property in her name.
08/16/1966: Charlie Wilson willed the Rosenwald School property to Mary. Charlie Wilson died on 1/25/1968, Mary Helen's birthday. He is buried near John Wesley and Amarintha in the Kittrell-Wilson Cemetery located behind the school.
Mary Helen Wilson Wiseman, (1/25/1929-11/8/2014) was the fourth child born to Charlie and Pearl Wilson. She attended Rosenwald School and talked fondly of how much she idolized the headteacher, Ms. Ester Bridges. After school, she would go to John and Amarintha's house to help with chores. Though young Mary Helen once called him "the meanest man in Texas," she was forever grateful that John Wesley took an interest in her and tutored her as if she were one of his college students.
Upon completion of the 8th grade at Rosenwald School, Mary entered Samuel Walker Houston High School where she graduated as valedictorian of her class.
Mary Helen's dream was to attend college and become an educator. That dream came one step closer when, despite her disappointment at not being able to go Huntsville's segregated Sam Houston State Teacher's College--where her grandfather taught-- she was awarded a scholarship to Tillotson College in Austin, Texas. This paid her tuition and though she "lived off of peanut butter and crackers" for her first year, she was grateful that it allowed her the first step to becoming an inspiration to nurture what she called "tiny, shiny minds."
1947: When her mother, Pearl, became terminally ill, Mary could no longer stay at Tillotson and had to return home. But she found that she had enough college credits for the Texas Education Agency to grant her an Emergency Teacher Certification.
That fall, Mary Helen Wilson made her family proud when she returned to Huntsville to become the Intermediate Instructor at the family's Rosenwald School.
Mary continued her education, attending classes on weekends and Saturday, and eventually acquired her Bachelor’s degree from Mary Allen College.
1950: Mary married ElRay Wiseman (12/19/1927-3/30/1960). They moved to Houston where they opened a business and raised three children: Kijana Gwen, Lynda Joy and ElRay Jr.
1964: Four years after the accidental death of her husband, this 5 time Easter School "Teacher of the Year” was awarded her Master of Education degree by Texas Southern University. She continued to teach for 47 years.
11/8/2014: Mary Helen Wilson Wiseman dies.
12/08/2020: The school property officially transfers to Mary’s eldest daughter, Kijana Wiseman-Fusilier, M.Ed. ( www.kijana.com & WisemanCompany.com ); youngest granddaughter; Joy D. Wiseman and eldest granddaughter: LaTanya Michell Brooks, M.Ed. (www.growwithstem.com ).
2021: The land, vacant and allowed to grow wild for over 40 years, is finally cleared by Kijana and husband Aundra Fusilier, employing the services, assistance and advice of Matt Davidson Land Management; Walker County Commissioner Danny Kuykendall; Ethel Crawford Wilson (wife of Rufus Wilson), cousins Howard Wilson, Russell Wilson; the the Kittrell-Wilson extended family--especially Mary K. Kittrell (wife of the late Edward Earl Kittrell, [Amarintha Kittrell Wilson's nephew and son of Billy & Fannie Kittrell] ); her sons Stanley and Edward Earl Kittrell Jr., contractor grandson Nate Grigsby (G2 Construction LLC), and others.
2022: The land is being donated to the 2022 Earth Day festival while in the planning stages for cultivation and habitation as a renewable energy, environmentally-friendly, multi-generational homestead.
OUR SPONSORS: H-E-B, Gingartum Root Juice, Texas Coffee News, The Houston Sun, The Houston Informer Foundation, Dr. Winnie King, KCOH-AM, KHVL-104.9, Yummy Yummy Mongolian Grill, The Granary, ButlerWiseman, Sam’s Table Restaurant, American Flip Factory, MoShows.com, The Wiseman Company, Dr. & Mrs. KG Belle, Judith Groudine Finkel, Michelle Paschall, The Fusilier, Kittrell, Vann and Wilson Families ...& more...
(as of Apr 19, 2022)
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