Historical society to meet Sunday

Published 3:40 pm Thursday, July 25, 2019

FREDONIA — On Sunday afternoon, July 28, local residents will have the chance to meet America’s Traveling Schoolmarm in a special program at the historic Fredonia Community Clubhouse. Susan Webb will be the guest speaker at the quarterly meeting of the Chattahoochee Valley Historical Society. In her 3 p.m. EDT presentation, Webb will have a most entertaining program making use of historic photographs, documented interviews, historical artifacts, tales of early American education and audience participation in recitation lessons. She will be transporting her audience to the legacy of Julius Rosenwald and the schools he helped build on the back roads of Alabama 100 years ago.

A German-Jewish immigrant, Rosenwald was the president of the Sears, Roebuck Company and noted philanthropist. A long-time friend of Booker T. Washington, Rosenwald served on the board of trustees at Tuskegee Institute. From 1912 until 1932, Rosenwald’s generous caring and compassion helped generate more than 5,300 school buildings across 15 states, primarily in the Southeastern U.S.

An estimated 660,000 African-American children benefitted from this. More than 400 Rosenwald schools were built in Alabama. By 1928, one in every five African-American rural schools was a Rosenwald school. Makeshift classrooms in dusty church basements were replaced by carefully planned and well-built schools.

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Today, through the efforts of local citizens, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and generous corporate contributions, many Rosenwald schools are being restored in communities such as Notasulga, Greensboro, Midway and Fredonia, Alabama.

An early American school historian, Webb is widely known as America’s Schoolmarm. Having lived in areas of the U.S. steeped in the history of country schooling, Webb has developed a passion for the study of early American education. Her 20 years as a classroom teacher, her background in theatrical presentation and more than a decade of early American education prompted her to develop a unique, entertaining and yet informative program. These ventures have transported her to libraries, universities, conference sites, historical societies and museums across the country. From these journeys, she has collected a small library of antique schoolbooks and an array of historical school artifacts.

Webb has set foot in countless restored country schools throughout the U.S. to engage audiences in school reenactments, utilizing her book “Country School Copybook” and other publications she has written such as “Ready for Reenactment?” “School Days Lessons,” “Masterful McGuffey” and the “One-Room School Copybook.”

On Sunday afternoon, July 28, Webb will be discussing the 100-year-old New Hope Rosenwald School from the 100-year-old Fredonia Community Clubhouse. Both were built in 1919.