Historic marker for Rosenwald School in Maryland to be unveiled

November 26th, 2014

According to the Capital Gazette, a historic marker will be unveiled at the site of the Phumphrey Rosenwald School in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, this Saturday, November 29th. From the article:

The committee believes that honoring the second site with a commemorative plaque honors the contribution of the philanthropist, Julius Rosenwald and the contributions that students who attended the elementary school made to the local and state communities by becoming tradesmen, entrepreneurs, church leaders, clergy, federal workers, teachers, principals, and community organizers.

Read more at the Capital Gazette.

The Rosenwald Schools work in progress screens in Sarasota, Florida

November 25th, 2014

Many thanks to Robert Fitzgerald for organizing a screening of our work in progress at the North Sarasota Library over the weekend. The event was held on Saturday, November 22, and the audience responded to the work in progress screening with warm applause. We were excited to hear from Robert about two of the audience members, Kate Harris and Lt. Col. George Hardy of the Tuskegee Airmen, have personal connections to the Rosenwald story.

Kate Harris is the daughter of Dr. Kenneth Clark, a noted African American educator, Civil Rights activist and psychologist who received a Rosenwald grant in 1940. Along with his wife, Dr. Mamie Phipps Clark (who received consecutive Rosenwald grants to study psychology in 1940, 1941 and 1942), Dr. Kenneth Clark contributed vital testimony in Brown v. Board of Education, where the Supreme Court found that school segregation led to a “feeling of inferiority” among black students.

Also joining the discussion was Lt. Col George Hardy of the Tuskegee Airmen. Lt. Col. Hardy trained at Tuskegee in 1944 at the Army air field funded by the Rosenwald Fund and served during World War II. The Rosenwald Fund’s involvement with the Tuskegee Airmen will be shown in the final cut of The Rosenwald Schools, scheduled to be released in 2015.

We’re so glad Robert Fitzgerald reached out to us about screening our work in progress. It sounds like he organized a wonderful event. Please contact cieslafdn@gmail.com if you would like to discuss screening the work in progress of The Rosenwald Schools at your upcoming event.

‘Parlor Party’ fundraiser held for The Rosenwald Schools

November 25th, 2014

Last night, my generous friends Matt and Lena Frumin held a parlor party fundraiser for the film at their home in Washington, DC. It was great fun meeting their friends and presenting the work in progress of The Rosenwald Schools.

Doug Singer and Jerimiah Cohen contributed delicious food to the dinner. Jerimiah has offered to make free delivery of food ordered to his company if you give $2,500 or more to the Ciesla Foundation.


Jeremiah Cohen of Bullfrog Bagels with Matt and Lena Frumin
Photo credit: The Ciesla Foundation, Nov 2014

Bagels and fish were provided by Bullfrog Bagels and the meat was catered by Singer’s Significant Meats.


Photo credit: The Ciesla Foundation, Nov 2014

Julian Bond, a consultant to the film, was also on hand to talk about his family’s connections to the Rosenwald Fund and how he inspired me to the make the documentary.


Councilmember-elect Brianne Nadeau, Lorie Masters, Councilmember Mary Cheh and Ward 3 school board member elect Ruth Wattenberg
Photo credit: The Ciesla Foundation, Nov 2014

In attendance were some of DC’s finest public officials. If you would like to hold a fundraising parlor party, please contact cieslafdn@gmail.com. We would be most grateful for help in finishing the film and you would be listed among the end credits. The Ciesla Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and all contributions are tax-deductible.

New center at New-York Historical Society will showcase women’s history, with spotlight on Zora Neale Hurston

November 22nd, 2014

According to The New York TimesArtBeat column, a new Center for the Study of Women’s History is planned by the New-York Historical Society, slated to open in late 2016. Among the new building’s features is a large-scale multimedia video that highlights significant female leaders from the past, including Zora Neale Hurston, who received a Rosenwald grant in 1935 to study anthropology.

You can read more about the project at ArtBeat. The editor of The Rosenwald Schools, Marian Sears Hunter, also worked on a great documentary about Zora called Jump at the Sun.

Aviva Kempner to lead discussion at Jewish Study Center event

November 17th, 2014

Tuesday night (11/18), Aviva Kempner will be the instructor for a class at The National Museum of American Jewish Military History in Washington D.C. (1811 R Street NW) sponsored by the Jewish Study Center. Ms. Kempner, director of the upcoming documentary The Rosenwald Schools, will show excerpts from her film and discuss her film’s subject, Jewish philanthropist Julius Rosenwald.

You can read more about Tuesday night and other upcoming Jewish Study Center courses here.

Noted Civil Rights Attorney John Doar Dies, Rosenwald Interviewee Rep. John Lewis Quoted

November 14th, 2014

The black and white footage of the statuesque Justice Department attorney John Doar, escorting James Meredith to attempt to register at the University of Mississippi, are unforgettable in U.S. Civil Rights history. Doar died November 11 at age 92 in New York. Of Doar’s distinguished legal career, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), an interviewee in The Rosenwald Schools, stated, “Every major step in the South in those days- he was there.” In his seven years as the second highest ranking Civil Rights attorney at the DOJ, in addition to to successfully prosecuting the killers of Civil Rights volunteers James Chaney. Andrew Goodman, and Mickey Schwerner, Doar won a conviction of the gunman who killed Selma voting rights volunteer and Detroit mother Viola Luozzo.

There were Rosenwald Schools in every Southern U.S. state, as well as Maryland and Texas. Doar tried Civil Rights cases in nearly all those states, sometimes appearing in courtrooms in three states on the same day.

The pioneering attorney who died this Veterans Day, served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War Two. He graduated Princeton University, where the 6’4″ Doar played on the basketball team in the mid-1940′s. His first years at Justice were under President Eisenhower. After the Civil Rights Movement, Doar served as special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee, where he led an impeachment inquiry against President Nixon in 1973. One of the young attorneys on his staff was Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Historians have said the Civil Rights Movement was fought on three fronts, equality of education, public demonstration. and legal battles, Julius Rosenwald’s support of Black schools exemplifies the former, and the work of John Doar, the latter.
John Doar, far left, w/ Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, and then-Solicitor General Thurgood Marshall:

Looking for that perfect photo – the talented Rabbi Hirsch

November 14th, 2014

In our upcoming film about Julius Rosenwald, we plan to talk a little bit about the great Reform rabbi Emil Hirsch. Hirsch was the rabbi at Sinai Congregation in Chicago around the turn of the 20th century and had a great influence on Rosenwald’s personal philosophy of charity. An intense orator, Hirsch was well-known in the city for his fiercely held beliefs about social justice and for the way he would lecture his own congregants, some of the wealthiest men in Chicago, if he felt they had acted selfishly or unjustly in their business affairs.

Hirsch must have been physically imposing as well, and one of the most interesting facts in his early biography is that, before he was ordained as a rabbi, he played football at University of Pennsylvania. Picturing Rabbi Hirsch on the college gridiron (with no padding at that time, of course) is the sort of detail that can really bring a figure from history to life in a documentary film, so it’s been disappointing that we haven’t yet turned up a photo of the rabbi from that time in life.

Our first stop, of course, was University of Pennsylvania’s archives. Penn has an extensive online archive of its own history and, surprisingly, you can actually view yearbooks from when Hirsch attended in the early 1870s online. Here’s an example of the “University Record” from 1871, where you can see Hirsch’s name as the treasurer of the class of ’72 on the very first page. Unfortunately, yearbooks from this time did not include headshots of students.

Not only did Hirsch play football at Penn, according to this document from the Penn archives, he was actually part of the first football game played at the university in 1871. American football was just in its infancy at that time and was mainly played at East Coast universities. The 1871 game, which pitted the seniors (including Hirsch) against the underclassman, was also recounted on page 26 of the 1872 yearbook, but again, with no pictures.

Football stayed popular at Penn after this inaugural game, and team photos exist in Penn’s archives for the 1878, 1879 and 1880 team. Kudos to Penn for keeping such a wonderful archive of its early sports teams, but we can’t help feeling a bit disappointed – if Hirsch had played football at Penn only a few years later than he did, we might have a photo of him with the team to use in The Rosenwald Schools.

Civil Rights Act exhibit on display at Library of Congress

November 12th, 2014

On September 10, 2014, until September 12, 2015, the Library of Congress exhibition “The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle For Freedom”, will be on display. The exhibition commemorates the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act. Interviewees from “The Rosenwald Schools” are part of the images in the exhibition, including Julian Bond and his colleague Rep. John Lewis, who is shown in a photograph on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the March on Washington. Julian Bond provides narration for an introductory film for the exhibit on the Civil Rights Act and John Lewis appears in a second introductory film on the impact of the legislation. As a child, John Lewis attended a Rosenwald School in Alabama.

More details regarding the exhibition here.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signing The Civil Rights Act of 1964:


Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Woodruff’s Talladega murals make their way to Washington

November 10th, 2014

On Wednesday, November 5, 2014, at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s Behring Center, Aviva Kempner, filmmaker of “The Rosenwald Schools”, attended a Director’s Preview and Reception commemorated the opening of “Rising Up: Hale Woodruff’s Murals at Talladega College”. We reported here in August that it was likely that Woodruff was awarded his Rosenwald Fellowships in 1943 and 1944 on the strength of this work. Two of the Woodfruff works in this exhibit were painted under Rosenwald Fellowships, including the painting “Poor Man’s Cotton”. This support allowed Woodruff to move away from the segregated South, to New York City, where he worked and taught the rest of his life.

The murals depict chapters from African American history such as The Amistad Trial, and The Underground Railroad. Woodruff, like Julius Rosenwald, was a native of Illinois, born in Cairo.

The exhibit runs at the Museum of American History through March 1, 2015.

Woodruff working on the Talladega murals:


Photo credit: Library of Congress via FSA/OWI

Rosenwald Schools Screened at Austin Conference on Southern Jews

October 31st, 2014

On Saturday, October 25, Aviva Kemper, producer and director of The Rosenwald Schools, presented on the panel “Jewish History on the Big Screen: Documentary Filmmakers” at the conference “Crossing Borders: Southern Jews in Global Contexts”,┬áin Austin, Texas. Kempner screened an excerpt from The Rosenwald Schools and discussed filmmaking vis-a-vis Jewish history. The panel was moderated by Hollace Ava Weiner, author, curator, archivist, and former president of the Southern Jewish Historical Society. Other panelists were filmmakers Cynthia Salzman Mondell and Allen Mondell, founders of Media Projects of Dallas, whose films include West of Hester Street, and Make Me A Match.

The excerpt from the film was warmly received, and we look forward to showing the completed film next fall at their annual meeting in Nashville.

For more details on “Crossing Borders”, including a panel on Blacks and Jews: The Genealogical Record, moderated by Leonard Rogoff of the Jewish Heritage Foundation of North Carolina, click here.


During the screening of The Rosenwald Schools


Eli Evans, who will appear in The Rosenwald Schools, spoke at the conference