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Julius Rosenwald: Businessman and Philanthropist




On February 1, the Cummer Museum, in collaboration with our colleagues at MOSH and more than 40 northeast Florida organizations in “Voices of Hope,” will present the film Rosenwald, about philanthropist Julius Rosenwald. This film sheds light on the silent partner of the pre-Civil Rights movement and his ties to Jacksonville and artist Augusta Savage. There will be a discussion following the film, led by retired Director of New York’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Howard Dodson.

Julius Rosenwald was born in 1892 to Jewish parents who emigrated to America from Germany during Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, in a house just a block from Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Illinois.

When he was 16 years old, Rosenwald was apprenticed to his uncles, who were clothing manufacturers in New York City, where he learned the trade. By the time he was 30, he had obtained moderate success as a business owner making ready-to-wear men’s suits. This led him to becoming a partner in Sears, Roebuck & Company. He eventually purchased the company, implementing a rational management philosophy and a diverse product line. In 1908, Rosenwald was named president of the company, and after 17 years was appointed Chairman of the Board, a position he held until his death in 1932.

In 1911, Rosenwald met Booker T. Washington, and the two became friends, even visiting each other’s homes. Soon thereafter, Rosenwald made his entry into large-scale philanthropy by establishing the Rosenwald Fund, which donated millions of dollars in matching funds to support the education of African American children in the rural south. Together with Washington, he built more than 5,000 state-of-the-art schools for African American children across the south, which became known as “Rosenwald Schools”. After a long philanthropic career, Rosenwald died at his home in Highland Park, Illinois, on January 6, 1932.

Howard Dodson, retired Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture will be leading the discussion following the screening. The Schomburg Center is one of four research libraries within the New York Public Library and is recognized as one of the leading institutions of its kind in the world. An international research and cultural icon located in Harlem, the Center has collected, preserved, and provided access to materials documenting black life, and promoted the study and interpretation of the history and culture of peoples of African
descent. The Center attracts scholars from across the nation and the world who utilize the Center’s comprehensive collection of general, rare, and unique materials to deepen their knowledge of and scholarship about the African American experience and the African experience in the Diaspora.

Mr. Dodson served as Director of the Schomburg Center for 25 years. During his tenure, the holdings grew from 5 to 10 million items, and the attendance tripled to around 120,000 visitors a year. He secured the collections of Melville J. Herskovits, John Henrik Clarke, Lorraine Hansberry, Malcolm X, and Nat King Cole, among others.

Rosenwald, directed by Aviva Kemper, documents his life and philanthropy. To learn more about the film, and to watch the trailer, visit For further information or to register for the viewing, please call 904.899.6038 or register now.


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