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Dr. Rodney White publishes history of Rosenwald Schools for African-American Students in Adair County

A History of Rosenwald Schools in Adair County, Kentucky

Dr. Rodney White, retired professor from EKU’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction, recently published a book featuring the history of Rosenwald Schools in Adair County, Kentucky. White’s book was inspired by the need to restore the last remaining Rosenwald School in the county, the Flatwoods School.

Rosenwald Schools were built throughout southern states in rural areas in the early 20th century to offer educational opportunities to African American students. Money for the schools was provided by Sears, Roebuck & Company executive Julius Rosenwald through the Rosenwald School Building Program. By the end of the program in 1932, 4,977 schools, 217 teachers’ homes, and 163 shop buildings had been constructed in fifteen southern states. In Kentucky, 158 schools and buildings were built for education of African Americans.

Kentucky's common or public schools were first created for white students in 1837. However, it was not until 1874 that a separate system of common schools for African American students was created. Furthermore, education of black and white children was segregated as a result of Kentucky’s state constitution of 1891 and Kentucky state law. In the early 20th century, two-thirds of black children in the South were not enrolled in school due to lack of facilities, teacher shortages, and apathetic white-controlled state governments. Although the majority of the money to build schools came from taxes collected from black and white citizens, between 1913 and 1932 the Rosenwald School Building Program sought to support the educational needs of black children.

The restoration project of Adair County’s Flatwoods School began early in 2019, lead by Rodney and Donna White and Sammy Hughes, all of Columbia. With the help of a local volunteer group called the “Band of Brothers” and other interested community members, the renovation process is well underway. White said that he hoped the school will give teachers and students a place to visit and learn about their past as well as preserve a unique local historical building.

All proceeds from the sale of Dr. White’s book, A History of Rosenwald Schools in Adair County, Kentucky, go to the Adair Heritage Association for the continued preservation of the Flatwoods School. Copies are available for $14 by contacting Rodney White at or or Rodney White, PO Box 504, Columbia, KY 42728


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Published on July 16, 2020

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