Black History Month: Remembering Newell School

Feb 16, 2022 | Education, Schools

As our name suggests, University City is rich in educational history. While we’re anchored by a major urban research institution, we’re also home to significant historic landmarks of Black education.

During the Jim Crow era, segregation meant that many Black children attended poor-quality schools. 

But from 1917 to the 1930s, a partnership between Booker T. Washington of the Tuskegee Institute and Julius Rosenwald, the president of Sears Roebuck, built roughly 5,000 Black schools across 15 southern states, according to community historian Tom Hanchett. 

By 1928, Rosenwald Schools, as they were called, served one-third of the South’s rural Black children and teachers. Though Mecklenburg County built 26 Rosenwald Schools, today historians believe just six remain standing. 

One of those, the Newell School, is located in University City. 

The Newell School, located at 1204 Torrence Grove Church Road, still stands next to Torrence Grove Church. Owned by Silver Set Lodge, an order of the Masons, the building is designated as a local historic landmark.  

According to a Fisk University database, Newell School was built in the 1928-29 budget year, and it shares many of the known Rosenwald School characteristics, including wooden exteriors and large window banks. The schools were designed to accommodate up to four teachers, and many were built next to churches.  

The Rockwell School, which was located in the Derita neighborhood, was built in 1921 but was demolished in 2007. 

Another historic school making recent headlines is Siloam School, also located in University City. Siloam was built using the Rosenwald school plans, but not Rosenwald funding, according to Angel Johnston with the Charlotte Museum of History. Due to its historical significance, the museum is spearheading a community fundraising effort to save Siloam School.

To learn more about these historic structures, visit the Charlotte Museum of History for “A Better Life for Their Children,” an exhibit that runs through June 2022, honoring the significance of Rosenwald Schools.

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