Rosenwald, by Aviva Kempner, is a documentary about how Chicago philanthropist Julius Rosenwald, the son of an immigrant peddler who rose to head Sears, partnered with Booker T. Washington ...
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Rosenwald, by Aviva Kempner, is a documentary about how Chicago philanthropist Julius Rosenwald, the son of an immigrant peddler who rose to head Sears, partnered with Booker T. Washington to build 5,400 Southern schools in African American communities in the early 1900s during the Jim Crow era. Rosenwald also built YMCAs and housing for African Americans to address the pressing needs of the Great Migration. The Rosenwald Fund supported great artists like Marian Anderson, Woody Guthrie, Langston Hughes, Gordon Parks, and Jacob Lawrence. Among those interviewed are civil rights leaders Julian Bond, Ben Jealous and Congressman John Lewis, columnists Eugene Robinson and Clarence Page, Cokie Roberts, Rabbi David Saperstein, Rosenwald school alumni writer Maya Angelou and director George C. Wolfe and Rosenwald relatives.
Well done documentaries educate us in interesting ways, but so often they leave us angry or frustrated or worse. This film about Julius Rosenwald, a man I never heard of before, is uplifting and inspiring at the same time it tells a story that few people know about a Jewish businessman who helped build and ultimately owned Sears Roebuck, whose generosity built more than 5,000 schools for African Americans in the rural south who otherwise would have been educated in one-room shacks. He also built a museum, a beautiful housing project, and provided scholarships for many of the best known African American writers and cultural icons.
Unlike many documentaries, this one brings the story to life with archival footage and some footage from movies or recreated scenes, and the talking heads include Julian Bond, civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, and Maya Angelou. The movie theater was packed, enthusiastic, and was the most integrated audience I have ever seen in Northwest D.C.
If you want to learn about a historical figure who deserves to be known and admired, learn a little civil rights and Chicago history, have some laughs and leave a movie theater feeling good about humanity, I recommend this documentary.
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