The Rosenwald Schools with Andrew Feiler and Brent Leggs

December 7, 2022 @ 12:30PM — 1:30PM Eastern Time (US & Canada) Add to Calendar

The National Building Museum: 401 F Street NW Washington, DC 20001 Get Directions

The Rosenwald Schools with Andrew Feiler and Brent Leggs image

Join us for the inaugural conversation in the series "Revealing Parallel Histories Hidden in Plain Sight" with Andrew Feiler and Brent Leggs to discuss Feiler's book on the Rosenwald Schools: "A BETTER LIFE FOR THEIR CHILDREN Julius Rosenwald, Booker T. Washington, and the 4,978 Schools that Changed America Photographs & Stories by ANDREW FEILER".

Born to Jewish immigrants, Julius Rosenwald rose to lead Sears, Roebuck & Company and turn it into the world’s largest retailer. Born into slavery, Booker T. Washington became the founding principal of Tuskegee Institute. In 1912 the two men launched an ambitious program to partner with black communities across the segregated South to build public schools for African American children. This watershed moment in the history of philanthropy—one of the earliest collaborations between Jews and African Americans—drove dramatic improvement in African American educational attainment and fostered the generation who became the leaders and foot soldiers of the civil rights movement. Of the original 4,978 Rosenwald schools built between 1912 and 1937 across fifteen southern and border states, only about 500 survive. While some have been repurposed and a handful remain active schools, many remain unrestored and at risk of collapse. To tell this story visually, Andrew Feiler drove more than twenty-five thousand miles, photographed 105 schools, and interviewed dozens of former students, teachers, preservationists, and community leaders in all fifteen of the program states.

“The Rosenwald school program represents people coming together across race, religion, and region to fundamentally make the world a better place,” says Feiler. “If there is a central theme in this story, it is that our individual actions can indeed make a difference.”

Beyond the photographic documentation, A Better Life for Their Children includes essays from three prominent voices: Congressman John Lewis, who attended a Rosenwald school in Alabama, provides an introduction; preservationist Jeanne Cyriaque has penned a history of the Rosenwald program; and Brent Leggs, Director of African American Cultural Heritage at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, has written a plea for preservation that serves as an afterword.

Doors open at 12:00 pm for networking, bring your own lunch!

This course is pending review for AIA Continuing Education (1 LU).

Meet our speakers

Andrew Feiler

Andrew Feiler is a fifth generation Georgian. Having grown up Jewish in Savannah, he has been shaped by the rich complexities of the American South. Feiler has long been active in civic life. He has helped create over a dozen community initiatives, serves on multiple not-for-profit boards, and is an active advisor to numerous elected officials and political candidates. His art is an extension of his civic values. Feiler’s photographs have been featured in solo exhibitions in numerous museums and galleries and are in prominent collections including that of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Brent Leggs

Brent Leggs is the executive director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund and senior vice president of the National Trust. Envisioned as a social movement for justice, equity, and reconciliation, the Action Fund is promoting the role of cultural preservation in telling the nation’s full history, while also empowering activists, entrepreneurs, artists, and civic leaders to advocate on behalf of African American historic places. His passion for elevating the significance of black culture in American history is visible through his work, which elevates the remarkable stories and places that evoke centuries of black activism, achievement, and community.


R. Steven Lewis, FAIA

Steven Lewis pursues his passions wherever they lead him. From Southern California, to New York, to Detroit and back, Steven’s ethics-driven urban planning and design has made the cities he’s worked in not only more aesthetically beautiful, but also more equitable and representative of the surrounding communities. Following in the footsteps of his father, an architect with a drive for justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion, Steven designs, speaks, mentors, and volunteers tirelessly to advocate for what he believes in and to see those values embodied in the built environment. Steven is the 2021-2022 President of the Architects Foundation.

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