Plaque commemorates Rosenwald legacy in Cooleemee

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 10, 2011

By Warren Fleming
For the Salisbury Post
Julius Rosenwald, a successful businessman, was most famous for more than 5,000 Rosenwald schools he established throughout the South for poor rural black children, and the 4,000 libraries he added to existing schools.
The Rosenwald rural school building program was a major effort to improve the quality of public education for African Americans in the early 20th-century south.
Thaddeus Stevens, a Republican politician, also performed a similar task in the northern states because he believed that the differences among people should not be feared or oppressed but celebrated. In his will he left $50,000 to establish Stevens Elementary School in Pennsylvania in 1868 as one of the first publicly funded schools for black children.
When it closed in 2008, it was the city’s oldest school in continuous operation.
The North Cooleemee Elementary School was built in 1924 on land that was once owned by the Ervin Cotton Mill. The school was one of two sites in Davie County that utilized financial assistance from the Rosenwald Fund for the education of African Americans students.
In June 2004, the 1966 graduating class of North Cooleemee Elementary held a reunion in Salisbury and the idea for installing a historical plaque was tabled by Brenda Annisette and seconded by Zettie Phillips.
The 1966 graduating class was the last class to graduate from the school before desegregation of the Davie County schools.
In February, Warren Fleming met with Mayor Lynn Rumley, who is also a member of the Cooleemee Historical Association, Ann V. Swallow, national register coordinator for the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office, along with members from the Concerned Citizens of North Cooleemee to discuss the possibilities of installing a Historical Rosenwald Plaque, along with other historical-related topics.
Mayor Rumley contacted the principal of North Cooleemee Elementary along with the superintendent of Davie County Public Schools to discuss the possibilities for the Davie County Board of Education to donate a parcel of land for the installation of a Rosenwald Plaque.
In June, it was confirmed by the Davie County Public School System that a parcel of land in North Cooleemee, where North Cooleemee Elementary (Rosenwald School) once thrived, would be allowed to have a historical plaque placed upon it to commemorate the Rosenwald legacy.
The official uncovering of the historical plaque is scheduled for June 2012. This will be the first Rosenwald Plaque installed in Davie County North Carolina.

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