The former students, educators, families and communities of the Rosenwald Schools of Fauquier County will gather for the unveiling of an historical marker commemorating the eight “colored schools” at 10 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 3 at Eva Walker Park in Warrenton. The Afro-American Historical Association in The Plains is hosting the program.
Julius Rosenwald never finished high school but rose to become the president of Sears. Influenced by the writings of the educator Booker T. Washington, the Jewish philanthropist joined forces with African-American communities throughout the Jim Crow South to build more than 5,300 schools during the early part of the 20th century. Eight Rosenwald schools were located in Fauquier County:
• Blackwelltown (Midland)
• Rectortown No. 12
• Remington No. 15 “Piney Ridge”
• Rosenwald High School (formerly “County Training”)
• Routts Hill (Bealeton)
At the Aug. 3 celebration, Liberty High School’s JROTC will present the colors at 10 a.m. Karen Hughes White, executive director of the AAHA said that as children attending the Rosenwald Schools, “we normally started our school day with devotions.” Then Janet Smith will lead the singing of the Negro National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
Michael L. Blakey, Ph.D. will be the featured speaker for the event. He is National Endowment for the Humanities professor of anthropology, Africana studies and American studies and director of the Institute for Historical Biology at the College of William & Mary.
Participants will gather at the J. E. Penn Family Life Center at Warrenton’s First Baptist Church, 39 Alexandria Pike, after the ceremony to share memories and enjoy refreshments. Those attending may bring lawn chairs for the park ceremony.
The process of creating Warrenton’s newest historical marker began in April of 2018. White said that she was contacted by Jerry Klinger, president of the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation. He wrote that since Fauquier County is the site of one of the first Rosenwald Schools in Virginia, “My society is willing to consider funding a historical interpretive marker at the site to tell an important part of your story in Virginia.”
White explained, “There were certain requirements that we needed to meet on our end” -- for instance, to find a site on public property that would be accessible to the public. “We agreed at AAHA that a possible site would be Eva Walker Park.” White contacted then town manager Brannon Godfrey, writing, “Currently, all former Rosenwald schools are on private property or no longer standing. We desire to have an interpretive marker that is accessible to as many people as possible, enabling the sharing of this rich history. Therefore, we are hoping for placement in Eva Walker Park.”
She added, “The County Training school grew to be a four-year high school... the only school in Fauquier County providing children of color a high school education... Fauquier County School Board members voted to seek approval from the Rosenwald Estate to name this school Rosenwald High School on May 11, 1933.
“Having placement in the town’s Eva Walker Park will be a living testament of our community’s history,” she said.
Because 2019 is being recognized as the 400th anniversary of Africans landing on the shores of Virginia, the dedication of the marker seems especially appropriate, said White.
For more information about the historical marker or the Rosenwald schools, visit aahafauquier.org or call the AAHA at 540-253-7784.