TCM showcases “The Jewish Experience on Film”

September 15th, 2014

Every Tuesday in the month of September, the cable TV network Turner Classic Movies has been playing films with Jewish themes starting at 8 PM.

The series began on September 2nd, with Jewish-themed classics like The Jazz Singer and Hester Street. Last Tuesday, September 9th, TCM tackled the post-WWII Jewish experience on film by screening The Stranger, The Pawnbroker and Judgment at Nuremberg. Here’s the schedule for the remaining three Tuesdays of September:

Tuesday, September 16th:

8:00 PM – Hill 24 Doesn’t Answer (1955)
10:00 PM – Sallah (1964)
12:15 AM – Sword in the Desert (1949)
2:15 AM – Exodus (1960)

Tuesday, September 23rd:

8:00 PM – The House of Rothschild (1934)
10:00 PM – Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)
12:15 AM – Crossfire (1947)
2:00 AM – Focus (2001)
4:00 AM – The Life of Emile Zola (1937)

Tuesday, September 30th:

8:00 PM – The Young Lions (1958)
11:00 PM – The Way We Were (1973)
1:15 AM – Hearts of the West (1975)
3:15 AM – The Chosen (1981)

Plan to stay up late on Tuesday nights this month or just set your cable box to record some of these great films. Click here to read more about the series at TCM.com, or click here to browse TCM’s schedule.

Announcement: The 2015 National Rosenwald Schools Conference

September 8th, 2014

Share the Past and Shape the Future of Rosenwald Schools!

Join us in Durham to experience: Hands-on Workshops and Demos, Documentaries, Educational Presentations, Field Tours, Poster Sessions, Exhibitors, Networking Opportunities, and Book Signings. To receive conference updates and future mailings enter your contact information at: www.preservationnation.org/rosenwald

Click here to propose a conference session

Excellent film on 1919 Chicago Race Riots to screen in Rochester, NY

September 4th, 2014

An excellent, but under-seen film made in 1984 by Bill Duke called The Killing Floor will screen at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York on September 26th.

Produced for American Playhouse and a prize-winner at the 1985 Sundance Film Festival, this well-researched film finds drama in the Great Migration of African Americans to the industrial north. Weaving together a dramatic narrative with both real and fabricated newsreel footage, Duke’s film manages to be engaging while sticking close to the historical details of a complicated and tense part of American history. The scenes depicting the Chicago Race Riots are particularly affecting.

The Killing Floor touches on many of the same topics and events as our upcoming documentary film, The Rosenwald Schools. Part of the film takes place in the historic Wabash Avenue YMCA, an important community center for new African American arrivals in Chicago that was funded by Julius Rosenwald. Rosenwald also helped address overcrowding in the wake of rapid population growth in the city’s “Black Belt” following the Great Migration. Segregation limited African American’s housing choices to this section of the city, but Rosenwald’s Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments provided hundreds of modern and well-equipped apartments. We hope to use some of the footage from Duke’s film in The Rosenwald Schools as an illustration of the milieu.

The film screens as part of The Rochester Labor Film Series. Visit the Dryden Theatre’s website for more information.

Profile of the San Domingo Rosenwald School published in the Washington Post

September 2nd, 2014

The newly restored San Domingo Rosenwald School, where we filmed on Saturday, August 23rd, was the subject of a lovely profile by Karen Chen in yesterday’s Washington Post. The 1919 Rosenwald School was beautifully restored over ten years by community members led by Newell Quinton, an alum of the school. Saturday was the school’s grand reopening as a community center and event space.

Click here to read more about the history of the school, the restoration and the people who made it possible at The Washington Post. Click here to read our blog post about the shoot.

New York’s DuArt Film & Video provides shelter to forgotten films

August 28th, 2014

The New York Times reports that the top floor at DuArt, “the premiere hatchery of American independent cinema,” is home to hundreds of films stored by independent filmmakers at the lab over the years, many of which were forgotten and orphaned by their owners. As digital distribution continues to expand, original film prints can fall by the wayside, surprisingly even by the filmmakers who created them.

The article lists some intriguing titles that are currently housed at DuArt, including Solomon Northup’s Odyssey, a 1984 adaptation of Twelve Years a Slave directed by Rosenwald fellow Gordon Parks, and Simbiopschotaxiplasm, an experimental film by William Greaves, a great documentary filmmaker who passed away on Monday.

Until recently, The Ciesla Foundation was storing some old prints of our previous films at DuArt, where we processed all our films. DuArt is the premiere lab for independent filmmakers and is headed by the wise and kind Irwin Young, who is the best friend to independent filmmakers. Because of a heads up from Young and Steve Blakely we’re happy to say that we already retrieved our negative a few months ago.

Click here to read more at The New York Times.

Rosenwald School Spotlight: The San Domingo Rosenwald School

August 27th, 2014


The San Domingo Rosenwald School
Photo credit: The Ciesla Foundation, August 2014

School is now in session.

Those were the first words by mistress of ceremonies Devoy Taylor at the dedication of the new San Domingo Community & Cultural Center at the historic Rosenwald School in San Domingo, Maryland. The Ciesla Foundation was on hand to film the ceremony, held on August 23rd, 2014, and to interview the school’s alumni and supporters.


Devoy Taylor ringing the principal’s bell
Photo credit: The Ciesla Foundation, August 2014

Chief among the school’s advocates is Newell Quinton, who spearheaded the ten year restoration process of his old school in the rural Eastern Shore of Maryland. The San Domingo Rosenwald School was opened in 1919 with funding from the Rosenwald Fund and the surrounding community. It replaced a smaller school on the same property in this hamlet where free African Americans have lived since before the Civil War. The new school was among the larger Rosenwald Schools to be built in the area, holding three classrooms and a special events space in its two floors. The restoration of the school is truly lovely, with art exhibits, artifacts, restored wooden floors and over 50 gleaming windows, the majority of which were missing and had to be replicated.


A large bank of windows, a trademark of Rosenwald Schools
Photo credit: The Ciesla Foundation, August 2014

Newell Quinton and his wife, Tanja R. Henson-Quinton, invited us to attend the dedication ceremony on Saturday, and we’re very grateful to have been a part of it. Before the ceremony, Mr. Quinton bantered with his sister, Alma Hackett (who also attended the school) about what it was like to attend a rural school before integration.


Newell Quinton and Alma Hackett
Photo credit: The Ciesla Foundation, August 2014

We also interviewed school alumni Sylvia Goslee, Charles Goslee, Rhuel Goslee and Avery Walker and even a teacher named Hattie Winder who had taught at the San Domingo Rosenwald School. It was striking how many of students had gone on to become educators themselves, including Alma Hackett and Rudolph Eugene Stanley, who shared with us a rich collection of very old photographs of the people in the community.


Rudolph Eugene Stanley
Photo credit: The Ciesla Foundation, August 2014

Stephanie Deutsch, author of You Need a Schoolhouse: Booker T. Washington, Julius Rosenwald, and the Building of Schools for the Segregated South, also attended the ceremony. She talked about how she got interested in the Rosenwald Schools (by marrying David Deutsch, a descendant of Julius Rosenwald) and how the National Trust for Historic Preservation highlights places, like the Rosenwald Schools, that “matter.” Stephanie also presented the school’s alumni with a portrait of Julius Rosenwald much like the one that hung in historic Rosenwald Schools across the South.


Stephanie Deutsch
Photo credit: The Ciesla Foundation, August 2014

During the ceremony, Dr. Clara L. Small, a recently retired professor at Salisbury University, shared her memories of going to a different Rosenwald School in North Carolina. Dr. Small also announced some exciting news: the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture is beginning an initiative to document the history of all the Rosenwald Schools in the state. As most Rosenwald School buildings have been demolished or abandoned and alumni who remember the schools are aging, it is a crucial time to write this important piece of history.


Photo credit: The Ciesla Foundation, August 2014

The team behind the restoration of the San Domingo Rosenwald School has made a huge contribution to the history of Rosenwald Schools in the state of Maryland. The restored building is a new center for the community, but it’s also a Rosenwald School museum and a monument to the history of San Domingo.

New interviews for the Rosenwald Schools – August, 2014

August 27th, 2014

On August 20th, we added a new interview for The Rosenwald Schools with Elsa Smithgall, an expert on Jacob Lawrence, and a follow up interview with Stephanie Deutsch, author of You Need a Schoolhouse: Booker T. Washington, Julius Rosenwald, and the Building of Schools for the Segregated South.

First we interviewed Ms. Smithgall, a curator at the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C. who is organizing an upcoming exhibition of the complete Migration Series, painted by Jacob Lawrence during his Rosenwald fellowship. It’s rare to see the series all together, because in February of 1942, after being shown at Edith Halpert’s Downtown Gallery in New York, the 60 panels were divided; half were purchased by the Phillips and half by MoMA. For the upcoming exhibition curated by Ms. Smithgall, the panels will be reunited and the series will be displayed in its entirety at both the Phillips Collection and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.


Elsa Smithgall of the Phillips Collection with Aviva Kempner
Photo credit: The Ciesla Foundation, August 2014

As Smithgall explained, the series, which depicts the epic migration of African Americans to the industrial north in the early 20th century, was divided among even and odd panels for the two galleries. This was done to preserve as much as possible of the narrative thrust of the series’ sequence in both halves of the collection. Adele Rosenwald Levy (daughter of Julius Rosenwald) played in central role in MoMA’s acquisition of half the panels, and she pushed for that half to be the even panels because a certain panel, number 46, spoke to her. The panel depicts the cramped living conditions new migrant workers faced at labor camps, and both Smithgall and our second interviewee Stephanie Deutsch mused on what aspect of the painting elicited such a strong reaction from Levy.

Smithgall also related the remarkable fact that Lawrence, who created an indelible portrait of the South in his Migration Series, had not personally visited the South before painting the series. Although, according to Smithgall, Jacob Lawrence “was aware of the impact of the negative conditions of the South” he hadn’t yet seen it first hand when he captured it in his own “direct and distilled” way in the 60-panel Migration Series. However, Lawrence’s parents had participated in what’s known as the “Great Migration” and he had observed the challenges faced by the new African American population in New York City and his native New Jersey.

Although we did discuss Lawrence’s Migration Series, and especially panel number 46, with our second interviewee, Stephanie Deutsch, we changed gears a little bit to talk about Julius Rosenwald’s school-building program. Rosenwald is best known for his financial contributions to over 5,000 rural schools for African Americans and for his innovative challenge grants that multiplied his investment, but less well known is his personal interest and encouragement of the communities his fund supported. As Stephanie said:

One thing I’m very struck with is that [Rosenwald] made a personal commitment to these schools. He was a very busy man, but he often travelled down south to visit the schools. These schools were all in very rural areas–they’re hard to get to now–so a hundred years ago it was quite a commitment on his part to make a point of going to visit the schools to see the students who studied there, the parents, the community that would gather to welcome him. That was something that impressed Rosenwald very much, that the schools didn’t just benefit the children, they benefited the whole community.

We had Rosenwald’s journeys south in mind on Saturday when we visited, along with Stephanie, a Rosenwald School on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Although today the journey is not as treacherous as it was 100 years ago, it was a long trip from Washington, and it reminded us how remote many of these schools were, especially the ones built in tiny rural communities like San Domingo, Maryland. This trip will be the subject of an upcoming blog post.

More bad news for Sears Holdings

August 27th, 2014

According to The New York Times, Sears Holdings, owner of Sears and Kmart stores, lost “nearly a billion dollars” in the first half of this year. Although recent retail earnings among its competitors have been “lackluster” across the board, Sears has performed among the worst. While Sears has worked to expand its “Shop Your Way” rewards program, with personalized deals for loyal shoppers and improve its online sales, it has lagged behind competitors in both these arenas as well.

It’s been tragic to watch the once dominant mail order (and, later, retail) giant’s decline over the years. During Julius Rosenwald’s tenure as head of Sears, the company capitalized on emerging technology in the field of mail order marketing to become a retail bohemoth. Unfortunately, as catalogue-based purchasing decreased, Sears lagged behind other companies like Walmart and Amazon.com in expanding and innovating new retail paradigms like the big box store and online mail order shopping.

Click here to read more at The New York Times.

Color photos by Gordon Parks of 1950s segregation to be exhibited in Atlanta

August 15th, 2014

We wrote about Gordon Parks’ “Segregation Series” last June, following the surprising rediscovery of the complete series, which Parks produced for LIFE magazine in the 1950s and which was thought to be lost.

Starting November 15th, according to The New York Times, the High Museum in Atlanta is mounting an exhibition of this series that they’re calling “Gordon Parks: Segregation Story.” The exhibit will be open until June 7, 2015.

Many of the powerful photographs in this collection have never before been seen in a gallery. Out of the more than 40 color prints depicting segregation, a select few were published in a 1956 LIFE Magazine article. From the examples we’ve seen in the media, these photographs, by the first recipient of a Rosenwald grant for photography, offer a truly unique illustration of the segregated institutions of the Jim Crow South.

Read more at The New York Times.

New novel approaches “passing” with a modern twist

August 13th, 2014

According to a review in The New York Times, the debut novel of author Jess Row, Your Face or Mine, (to be released this week) uses the science fiction concept of “racial reassignment surgery” as a jumping off point to a rumination on race and identity in the modern world. “Passing” as a member of another race is a familiar literary theme, mainly found in African American literature of the 20th century, like the works of Rosenwald fellows James Baldwin and James Weldon Johnson. Writing for the the Times, Felicia R. Lee explains:

A fan of James Baldwin’s work, Mr. Row said he set out to have “Your Face in Mine” explore the ways people try to escape their racial identities, as well as investigate their desire for racial reconciliation and deeply unconscious fears and discomforts around race.

“Passing” has been a major theme in African-American literature for over a century, and has usually meant blacks living as whites to escape bias. “Your Face in Mine” owes something to classic stories of passing like “The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man,” by James Weldon Johnson (published anonymously in 1912 and under his name in 1927), and the 1931 satire “Black No More,” by George S. Schuyler, in which blacks rush to embrace a new scientific process to become white.

Read more about the new novel at The New York Times.