The National Civil Rights Museum opens an exhibit highlighting a massive shift in Black Education during the Jim Crow South

Smithsonian traveling exhibition A Better Life for Their Children opens on August 18

Memphis, Tennessee, UNITED STATES

Memphis, TN, Aug. 10, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- An exhibition highlighting one of the most transformative education projects for Black students during the 20th century will unveil at the National Civil Rights Museum on August 18. A Better Life for Their Children: Julius Rosenwald, Booker T. Washington, and the 4,978 Schools that Changed America is a photography exhibition about Rosenwald Schools built in the segregated South from 1912 to 1937. 

The Rosenwald Schools project was a monumental partnership of educator and author Booker T. Washington and entrepreneur Julius Rosenwald. Rosenwald turned Sears, Roebuck & Company into the world's largest retailer, while Washington became the founding principal of Tuskegee Institute. In 1912, the two teamed up to launch an ambitious program that would partner with Black communities to build public schools that would educate more than 700,000 Black children across the South.

Each Black community and school district had to match the grant awarded. After Washington’s death in1915, the Rosenwald Fund was created in 1917 and was managed at Tuskegee. In 1920 the Fund moved to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Captured through the lens of photographer and author Andrew Feiler, A Better Life for Their Children is a photo exhibit intertwined with interviews with teachers, students, preservationists, and community leaders who reflect on the impact of the Rosenwald Schools. The exhibition is based on Feiler's book of the same title. 

"We often see America's challenges as intractable, especially those related to race," said Feiler. "Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald reached across divides of race, religion, and region, and they changed this nation. Their accomplishment speaks to us today. Individual actions matter: we can make America a better place for all."  

Feiler drove more than 25,000 miles, photographing 105 schools, and interviewed dozens to reflect on the program's impact. The stories include but aren't limited to the Trail of Tears, the Great Migration, and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, only about 500 of those schools exist today. 

A Better Life for Their Children is on display until January 2, 2023, and is included with admission. The coffee table book is available for purchase at the museum. For more information, visit the museum’s website


About the National Civil Rights Museum 

The NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM, located at the historic Lorraine Motel where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, is the only museum of its kind that gives a comprehensive overview of the American Civil Rights Movement from 1619 to the present. Since opening in 1991, millions from around the world have come, including 90,000 students annually. As the new public square, the Museum examines today’s global civil and human rights issues, provokes thoughtful debate, and serves as a catalyst for positive social change. 

A Smithsonian Affiliate and an internationally acclaimed cultural institution, the Museum is recognized among USA Today's Top 10 Best American Iconic Attractions; Named in the Top 1% of TripAdvisor Attractions; Top 10 Best Historical Spots in the U.S. by TLC's Family Travel; Must See by the Age of 15 by Budget Travel and Kids; Top 10 American Treasures by USA Today; Best Memphis Attraction by The Commercial Appeal and Top Tourist Attraction by Memphis Business Journal