Renovated Anderson Rosenwald School hosts public celebration on Aug. 30

Press release from Mars Hill University:

The Friends Group of the Historic Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School announce a Grand Public Celebration marking 10 years of rehabilitation and preservation progress on the building that has stood in the Long Ridge Community on the south end of Mars Hill for nearly 100 years. A vestige of the Jim Crow South, the Historic Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School stands as a powerful testament to Madison County’s African American heritage. The school was built with funds provided by the Julius Rosenwald Fund that were matched by the community and the Madison County Public School District.

The Historic Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School was one of more than five thousand such schools in the former confederate States that were built primarily for the education of African-American elementary school children during the early twentieth century. This was the result of a collaboration between philanthropist Julius Rosenwald, the Jewish-American president of Sears, Roebuck, and Company, and the African-American leader, educator, and philanthropist, Booker T. Washington, who was born into slavery and became the president of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.

The need arose for these schools because of the chronic underfunding of public education for African-American children in the South, as black people had been discriminated against at the turn of the century and excluded from the political system in the Southeast. All children were required to attend racially-segregated schools.

To obtain grant funds from his foundation and to promote collaboration between black and white people, Rosenwald required communities to commit public funds and labor for the construction of these schools, as well as to contribute additional cash donations after construction. With the program, millions of dollars were raised by African-American rural communities across the South to fund better education for their children. White school boards had to agree to operate and maintain the schools.

Mars Hill satisfied the requirements for a grant to build a school. It was built to replace what was then called the Long Ridge Colored School between 1915 and 1932. After nearly 40 years of providing a much-loved and successful primary school foundation for the African American children of the community, the Historic Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School closed in 1965, with the advent of integration, after the Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board of Education decision. The Madison County school system has maintained ownership of the school. In the intervening years the building has served as a recreational center, a basketball court⸻and even a tobacco-curing barn. The structure eventually deteriorated and was in danger of collapse.

In 2009, a preservation committee was formed by school alumni and other community members; this group became the “Friends of the Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School” in 2011. With the help of financial donations, grants, and donated labor, the structure is nearly completely rehabilitated. It will be open to the public with regular hours (and by appointment). It is destined to serve as a museum, community center and a rich resource for Appalachian African-American research.

On May 31, 2018, the Historic Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The following events are planned for the celebration and are open to the public:

Friday, August 30th, 2019
10:00 a.m. – Opening ceremony in Broyhill Chapel on the campus of Mars Hill University, introducing alumni of the Rosenwald School. This will be followed by shuttle bus trips to the school.
11:00 a.m. – Ribbon Cutting and tour of the School (225 Mount Olive Drive, Mars Hill)
12:00 p.m. – Buses back to Mars Hill University
Luncheon in Redway Dining Room (RSVP to:

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