Last night’s showing of Rosenwald at the Old Greenbelt Theatre was a moving and fascinating event that packed the house – every seat. That’s because the documentary was followed by words and answers for the very engaged audience by filmmaker Aviva Kempner and historian Susan G. Pearl, shown above with the theater’s executive director Caitlin McGrath.
Kempner’s a DC-based filmmaker and knew we’d appreciate learning that one prominent Chicagoan in the film happens to be Valerie Jarrett’s grandfather. Asked how long it took to make the film, Kempner shared some exasperation over the 12 years it took because of fund-raising, while otherwise it would have been just three.
The audience was packed with not just Greenbelters but actual Rosenwald graduates, who found out about the event through a press release forwarded to them by Pearl – and Caitlin thanks Aaron Marcavitch for helping to make that happen. So the woman in red introduced herself as a former principal of a Rosenwald School in Anne Arundel County. And the gentleman shown is Benny Lawson (I believe), who attended a Rosenwald School in South Carolina, where his mother taught. Like all the other schools, it was closed in 1954 after Brown v. Board of Education mandated desegregation.
This is the crowd just as people were leaving.
Rosenwald Schools of Maryland
Historian Susan Pearl has researched the 156 Rosenwald schools in Maryland (of the roughly 5,000 across the South ), nine of which are intact, which is the highest percentage of any state. Click this link to download her report: Rosenwald Schools of Maryland_text (1)
She told us that the closest Rosenwald schools to Greenbelt are:
- Ridgeley School on Central Avenue just inside the Beltway, which she called “our prize.” It’s now owned by the state (Park and Planning) and is open for visitors, with wonderful docents, according to Pearl.
- Collington School, on the way to Bowie.
We know there was once the the Lakeland School in College Park because a graduate of Lakeland introduced herself.
So how about a Tour from Greenbelt?
The audience had the chance to sign up for a Pearl-led tour of (as I understood it) seven schools. Can we sign up somewhere online if there’s still room? Or maybe a bunch of Greenbelters could arrange a carpool and guide to the three closest? I’m putting that out there in hopes.