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Celebrating Rosenwald – the Man, the Schools, the Graduates

posted in: Arts/Entertainment

Filmmaker Aviva Kempner and historian Susan G. Pearl

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.

Audience at Old Greenbelt Theatre for Rosenwald

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.
  • Lanham
  • 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. 

Follow Susan Harris:
Susan started blogging about Greenbelt soon after moving here in 2012, and that first blog has grown into this nonprofit community website. She also created and curates the Greenbelt Maryland YouTube channel. In 2021 Susan joined the Board of Directors of Greenbelt Access TV. Retired from garden writing and teaching, she continues to blog at GardenRant.com.

12 Responses

  1. Lore Rosenthal
    | Reply

    Here is the info about the Nov 6th tour. It costs $85.

    Do you think we could arrange our own tour of the three schools Ben listed above, in Lanham, Bowie, and Capitol Heights?

    • Susan Pearl
      | Reply

      I am leading the National Trust tour of 7 Rosenwald schools in Prince George’s and Anne Arundel Counties on November 6. But the cost ($85) is high, and we are planning to do a shorter, smaller van trip to about a half-dozen Rosenwald Schools in Prince George’s sometime in the spring of 2016. It will cost much less, probably around $15 or $20. Let me know if yo are interested!

      Susan Pearl, Historian

  2. Mari Medura
    | Reply

    I’ve been trying to find information sporadically for years on an old building. When living in the Pointer Ridge area in 1980, I would ride a bicycle to Mitchellville Road and then onto Mt. Oak Road. Of course, 35 years ago, it was just a two-lane road and lined with trees and overgrowth. There was a building near the railroad tracks and have always been curious as to the history. From reading your article and the replies, I believe this was the “Collington Colored School,” one of the Rosenwald Schools. I’ve looked on Google Maps and using the road view I believe the school was located on what is now the Mullikin School Bus lot. I know progress marches on, but I would enjoy seeing old photographs of the school and that area. Thank you for all the information you have provided.

    • Glenn Cross
      | Reply

      I recently learned that my great aunt was a teacher who taught in late 1920’s at the Mullikin Consolidated School in this area of Mitchellville/Bowie. I wonder if this is related to the “Mullikin School Bus Lot?”
      contact me: onwardupwardgc at outlook.com 9-7-2018

    • Eric
      | Reply

      I went to kindergarten at the Mullikin School. It would have been in 1968. I recall that my teacher, Mrs. Turner, lived near us on Millstream Dr.

      I found a picture of it online, but of course now I can’t find it. It was a 3 story building, but the ground floor a was half below ground level. So on entering, you went down to the ground (first) floor, and up to the second floor. I remember watching the trains go by when we heard them.

      • Eric
        | Reply

        Forgot to add: yes, the building was on Mt. Oak Rd. at what’s now identified as the Mullikin School Bus Lot. You can see the railroad tracks that were across the parking lot from where the building once stood.

      • Steve Hales
        | Reply

        I have the photo of Mullikin Elementary if you’re still interested. Steve

    • Doris E Williams
      | Reply

      Collington Colored School was on the E side of Church Rd about a mile S of Defense Highway, Rt 450. Mitchellville Colored School was on the W side of Mitchellville Rd about a tenth of a mile S of its intersection with Mount Oak Rd. Mullikin School was located on what is now called the Mullikin Bus Lot., which also encompasses the Mitchellville Post Office location. I started in the 4th G at Mullikin School in the fall of 1941. Mullikin School was a consolidated school for white children. The bell that hung over the stairway came from the Cherry Hill School, also called Duckett School House, a one-room school on the E side of Enterprise Road, a short distance N of its intersection with Woodmore Road. Mullikin School opened in the mid-1920s and closed in the spring of 1964. Woodmore School opened. in the fall of 1964. The Cherry Hill School bell was relocated to a lighted display niche in the new Woodmore School, at the instigation of my father, W Irving Earnshaw, whose grandparents, Jeremiah and Louisa Duckett had donated the land for Cherry Hill School. I am 88 years old and remember much from those times.

  3. Ben Fischler
    | Reply

    Addresses for Rosenwald schools near Greenbelt:

    Lakeland (John C. Johnson) Elementary School
    8006 Winnipeg Street, College Park, MD

    Lakeland High School
    8108 54th Avenue, College Park, MD

    Ridgely School
    8507 Central Avenue, Capitol Heights, MD 20743

    Lincoln School
    5201 Baltimore Avenue, Lanham, MD

    Collington “Colored” School
    5201 Church Road, Bowie, MD

    • Ben Fischler
      | Reply

      The Lakeland (John C. Johnson) Elementary School is no longer standing. The address of 8006 Winnipeg Street is now part of Lake Artemesia.

    • Susan Harris
      | Reply

      THanks, Ben!

  4. Jim Link
    | Reply

    What a wonderful night! What an inspiring film! Thank you to Susan Harris for this blog and to Denise Riley, Aviva’s friend, who lassoed Aviva into speaking at our capacious big screen theater!

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