A Better Life for Their Children

Julius Rosenwald, Booker T. Washington, and the 4,978 Schools That Changed America

On Display
Exhibition Type
Limited Time Exhibition
Time Period
1877 to 1924
1925 to Today
Art & Architecture
Black History
Two people hold an ornately frame painted portrait of two people in early 1900s dress

Elroy & Sophia Williams – Sophia Williams’s Grandparents, Former Slaves, Acquired and Donated Land for a Rosenwald School. Photo by Andrew Feiler. 

Admission: Included with Museum Daily Admission

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This exhibition explores the history and legacy of one of the most transformative educational initiatives in American history forged by Booker T. Washington, a Black educator, and Julius Rosenwald, a Jewish businessman and philanthropist. Between 1912 and 1937, their program provided seed money to build thousands of schools for Black children across the segregated South. These schools countered the deep educational disparities during Jim Crow and had a profound and lasting impact on our nation.

Inspired by this remarkable story, contemporary photographer Andrew Feiler traveled around the South to document Rosenwald schools and their communities. This exhibition showcases 26 of his photographs and stories. In addition, there is a VMHC-organized section devoted to Rosenwald schools in Virginia with historical artifacts, images, oral histories with alumni, and interactive elements. Feiler’s powerful photographs, combined with the Virginia-specific contents, provide a testament to the power of education and interracial collaboration.

Purple background with a grid of 6 black and white photo of school buildings and children in schools, and text over each one, including "On Education", "The Teachers", "On Segregation", "In Class", "Beyond the Books", and "Facilities & Resources"

Rosenwald Schools Oral Histories

Watch and listen to alumni of Virginia’s Rosenwald schools talk about their experiences in a series of oral history recordings.

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Presenting Sponsors
Melanie Trent De Schutter
Supporting Sponsors
Dr. Tamara Charity-Brown & Carlos M. Brown Exhibition Fund
Helen E. Dragas Foundation
Katherine & Jack Nelson
Mr. & Mrs. Gerald F. Smith, Jr.
Community Foundation for a greater Richmond
Arenstein Family
Barbara J. Thalhimer & William B. Thalhimer, Jr. Family
Lettie Pate Evans Changing Exhibition Fund