Lincoln area home named for Julius Rosenwald

Lincoln area home named for Julius Rosenwald

  • 0
{{featured_button_text}}

The boyhood home of businessman and philanthropist Julius Rosenwald was renamed in his honor Wednesday.

The building on 8th Street serves as the headquarters for the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, which consists of several residences in Abraham Lincoln's Springfield neighborhood.

Born in 1862, Rosenwald lived in a house on 7th Street until his family moved to the 8th Street home in 1869. He became president of Sears, Roebuck and Co. and used his fortune for charitable causes. Among the most well-known was helping to fund construction of more than 5,000 schools for African-American children in the segregated south between 1917 and 1932. More than 600,000 children attended those schools.

Mike Jackson of the Springfield Rosenwald Initiative called Rosenwald "Springfield's unrecognized hero." He said Rosenwald didn't seek personal recognition, citing how he founded the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago but refused to let it be named for him.

"He's basically at the top of the heap of social philanthropists," Jackson said as part of the George L. Painter Looking for Lincoln Lecture series at the Lincoln Home National Historic Site that hosted the renaming on Lincoln's birthday.

"His lesson of 'give while you live,' his approach to charity, helping others help themselves, all are messages that resonate today," Jackson said.

Kathryn Harris, retired library services director at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, said Rosenwald shared traits with Lincoln including honesty and empathy. It was Rosenwald's relationship with Booker T. Washington, who led Tuskeegee Institute in Alabama, that got him involved in building schools in the south, she said.

"Despite being one of the richest, wealthiest men in the nation, Rosenwald was able to appreciate and give some level of understanding to the position that the black man found himself in the racist, Jim Crow and segregated era of the first quarter of the 20th Century," Harris said.

Former U.S. Attorney Jim Lewis said Rosenwald pushed the construction of the school buildings -- with the help of local communities and governments -- "when there were few if any schools for African-Americans."

Lewis was a community organizer and Head Start teacher in Mississippi in the 1960s. "I walked past a Rosenwald school each day," he said. "It was an old, unpainted wooden building, no longer in use. But it was still respected in the community."

Springfield resident Carolyn Blackwell, 75, attended a Rosenwald school in Providence, Ky., starting when she was 6. The long-time educator said the school gave her "a good start."

"I loved my Rosenwald school," she said, though only attending through fourth grade because her family moved to Champaign. "It was so rich -- and I would like to emphasize rich -- with family, friends, goodness, kindness and community."

There is a movement in Congress to study establishing a national park designation in Rosenwald's honor. It would include some of the school buildings in the south and a visitors center in Chicago, according to Dorothy Canter, a long-time volunteer with the National Parks Conservation Association from Bethesda, Md. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, of Springfield and U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, D-Chicago, are sponsors, she said. Co-sponsors include U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, and Darin LaHood, R-Peoria.

An exhibit panel in front of the Rosenwald home was unveiled after speakers at the visitors center praised Rosenwald's philanthropy and achievements.

The inscription reads in part: "Between 1928 and 1948, the Rosenwald fund provided financial assistance to hundreds of primarily African-American artists, writers, musicians, and scholars who could not otherwise afford to pursue their endeavors. Famous recipients include author W.E.B. Dubois, poet Langston Hughes, Dr. Charles Drew, and opera singer Marian Anderson. Julius Rosenwald, and the people in whom he invested, made a powerful contribution to our country."

Rosenwald also gave $5,000 toward building Temple B'rith Sholom in Springfield, his family's place of worship.

He died in 1932 at age 69 in Highland Park, north of Chicago.

Timothy Good, superintendent of the Lincoln Home site, said the Park Service has plans to add at least two interpretive panels to the Lincoln Home area to identify people who lived in the neighborhood. He said that would help show the diversity of the area, as, for example, Lincoln had African-American, Portuguese and Irish neighbors.

Lincoln's environment in Springfield "was far more diverse than most people realize," Good said, "and that unquestionably helped him when he was president and dealing with a diverse nation."

0
0
0
0
0

Be the first to know

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

News Alerts

Breaking News