Rosenwald School Building Program in Texas Lockhart Vocational High School - Carver High School, Lockhart Texas

Three events in this century produced significant changes in African American education in Texas; the Rosenwald School Building Program; the Gilmer-Aikin Laws; and the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education (1954). Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932), Chicago philanthropist and president of Sears and Roebuck built industrial-type schools for African Americans throughout the South. The first building funded through Rosenwald's personal philanthropy was built in Alabama in 1913. The Julius Rosenwald Fund, established in 1917, would later aid in the construction of 527 school buildings in Texas. The major focus of the Fund was in the areas of education, fellowships, and race relations.

Before the Fund began to extend aid in the form of matching grants in states other than Alabama in 1915, African American education during this time was being conducted in churches, shacks, cabins, and the like. These schoolhouses were located in rural areas of the South and had few, or in most cases, no amenities. And their up-keep relied almost entirely on the efforts of the principal, students, and members of the community who had very limited resources to draw on. Rosenwald intended that his school buildings be examples of modern schoolhouse construction. They were categorized by how many teachers taught in the school. For example, the plans started at 1-teacher type and went up to six-teacher types with one variation on each style. In later years, the plans were revised to include schoolhouses as large as twelve-teacher types. To receive aid from the Program, the independent school districts were required to place the black schools on their tax rolls, and that the schools continued to be maintained by the district after Rosenwald Funds had been distributed.

Rosenwald called for a conference in 1919 to assess the effectiveness of the Building Program. He hired architect Fletcher B. Dresslar, professor of Rural Sanitation at Peabody College, to assess the Program and make recommendations. Aid to school districts was temporarily suspended pending the results of this investigation. He found that the schools built in the early years of the program were poorly constructed and in varying degrees of disrepair. Dresslar's report resulted in the Fund making several operational changes, one of which was adopting standardized plans. These plans were used throughout the organization's existence.

To insure that these buildings were being cared for, the School Plant Rehabilitation Committee conducted a survey in July of 1934 to determine the conditions of those schools aided by the Fund. The Committee received reports from 52 counties in Texas on 367 buildings with 157 buildings not submitting reports (Caldwell County was listed among those counties that had not returned a report by the 1 February 1935 deadline). According to the Texas Summarized Report of Rosenwald Schools, the improvements and condition of the schools in use showed:

1) That 58 classrooms had been added to 31 schools.

2) That 45 (12%) of the buildings had been painted inside, and 67 (18%) had been painted outside.

3) That repairs and improvements had been made on 262 (72%) of these schools, within the four years prior to 1935, at a cost of $112,709, and average of $430 per school.

4) That $9,375 of government aid was received for improvements on 65 (18%) of the Rosenwald Schools in the State, an average of $144 per school.

5) That the grounds had been improved at 145 (40%) of these schools.

6) That the county superintendent's rating of the condition of these school plants as "good," "fair," and "poor," indicated that:

Buildings-59% "good," 33% "fair," and 8% "poor"

Equipment-41% "good," 41% "fair," and 18% "poor"

Grounds-40% "good," 51% "fair," and 9% "poor"

Water Supply-29% "good," 51% "fair," and 16% "poor"

To encourage plant improvement and beautification, the Fund sponsored "Rosenwald Day" in 1928. The county superintendent and his committee judged the contests, and the suggested theme was "School Plant Improvement." The Fund outlined suggestions for the type of plant improvements that should be made, and how best to make them. And the State Judges determined county winners. The first prize winners in each of the participating counties received an Honor Certificate from the State Department of Education and the Rosenwald Fund. The State winner of this contest received a Rosenwald Library that was donated by the Fund.

In addition to schoolhouses, the Rosenwald Fund offered special aid for vocational equipment, libraries, the extension of school terms and transportation. Lockhart Vocational High School was one of 464 schools in Texas whose construction was aided by the Fund. Julius Rosenwald died at his home in Ravinia outside Chicago in 1932. It was his wish that the Fund not be held in perpetuity. Therefore after the expenditure of all assets in 1948, the Rosenwald School Building Program ceased operations.

The Rosenwald Fund also aided the construction of what was called "County Training Schools". These were those "larger public schools for African Americans in the southern states that were open in the higher grades to children from all parts of the county, and offering, or planning to offer, work including the eighth grade or higher, and which have been aided by the John F. Slater Fund". The schools were called "County Training" only if the Slater Board funded them.

The Rosenwald Fund greatly increased the number of schools offering secondary education for African Americans in the rural South. There were only 64 public high schools recorded in the United States in 1916. Of these, only 45 offered four-year course work. Texas claimed 13 public secondary schools for blacks in that year. R. A Harrison, LVH's second principal, suggested to the Lockhart School Board on the 7 May 1928 that funds to establish a Home Economics department and pay teacher's salaries could be obtained through the Slater Fund. In a 1931 report on "Negro Education", Caldwell is one of 30 counties listed as having County Training Schools for the year 1929.