We have a unique piece of history in Locust Grove. There is a Rosenwald School Building still standing. It is in pretty good shape for its age but is deteriorating and needs to be preserved for future generations. We have been quietly working and planning to save the Unity Grove Rosenwald School since the school is currently privately owned and on private property.
A non-profit organization, The Henry County Arts & Culture Alliance, has been formed. Its purpose is to preserve and promote diverse arts and culture in our community. The Unity Grove Rosenwald School is its first project to turn the school into an educational center and museum to register the school as a National Historic Site possibly. We now need to raise funds to proceed and acquire the school from the current property owners.
As a part of American History, Rosenwald Schools, as they are commonly called, began as a partnership between Julius Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington. Mr. Rosenwald was the president of Sears & Roebuck and a wealthy man. Mr. Washington was an educator and Civil Rights Activist, and he was very concerned about the conditions of rural schools in the south for African American children. Mr. Rosenwald and Mr. Washington developed a plan to encourage the community to work together to raise funds and receive a grant to improve the schools. There was a catalog of schoolhouses, and Rosenwald Schools became very popular across the Southern United States. Most of these buildings were no longer needed with the segregation of schools. Some were repurposed, but many were eventually torn down or rotted away. There are very few left today. This is a little-known piece of American History.
Henry County had 6 Rosenwald Schools and one teacher house (Henry County Training School in McDonough, Red Oak, Mt. Carmel, Unity Grove, Stockbridge, and Hampton). Unity Grove is the only remaining building. We want to be able to preserve this vital part of history and tell the story of how these schools impacted Henry County communities as well as the nation.
It will take much work; the first step is raising funds. If you have a connection to a Rosenwald School or know anything about the schools in Henry County, please reach out. We would love to learn more about each school and the experiences of students.
Unity Grove Rosenwald School
The Unity Grove School is located in the old Tussahaw Militia District. Unity Grove settlement was a Black community that developed after the War Between the States. The institutions of the community were the church and school serving the farm families of this area. We know Unity Grove School existed as early as 1891 because of its connection with American civil rights leader James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) one of the founders of the NAACP.
In 1931 the State Department of Education approved $400.00 in Rosenwald Aid for the construction of a two-teacher Rosenwald School at Unity Grove to replace the old schoolhouse, which had fallen into a state of dilapidation. Rosenwald Schools are an important part of our educational heritage.
Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932) was a philanthropist who made his fortune as President and Chairman of Sears, Roebuck and Company. From 1917 to 1932, the Rosenwald Fund contributed $4.4 million for the construction of 5,357 Black schools in the rural South. To receive Rosenwald money the local Black and White communities had to contribute to the construction. The last official record on Unity Grove School was September 7, 1954, when the Board of Education established an extra bus route "in order to consolidate the Unity Grove School with Shoal Creek School" at Locust Grove. Unity Grove has played an important role in history. (History of Unity Grove courtesy of Gene E. Morris, Jr., Henry County Historian)