President of Sears Helps Build Modern School for African-American Students in Elkton in 1920s

This is the school about 1950, just a few years before the modern George Washington Carver school opened.


On Booth Street in Elkton there’s a small nondescript masonry block building adjacent to the George Washington Carver Leadership Center.  A few days ago that structure, which presently houses the school system’s maintenance office, was the subject of an investigation by historian Susan Pearl who is working for the Maryland Historical Trust. 

Susan is out tracking down Rosenwald Schools across Maryland.   In the era before Brown versus Board of Education, African-Americans schools across the south were generally inferior.  Thus the president of Sears, Julius Rosenwald, wanted to make a difference in education for young people in needy segregated communities so he established a foundation that encouraged the building of up-to-date schools in the south between 1917 and 1932.  

Working with the Fund’s archives at Fisk University Susan determined that the Foundation built one school in Cecil County.  It was in Elkton and according to the University records the school constructed in 1926 was a five-teacher building that cost $7,600 and the Rosenwald Fund contributed $1,300 toward the project. 

While Susan was in Elkton, she searched historical society files, examined board of education records, checked maps, and studied school board financial records for the period.  The data shows that there was a much earlier frame structure on this parcel by about 1892.  In the 1920s and the 1930s, there were additions to the building, which served as the African-American School in Elkton until the current administration building opened as a modern school for students.   I’ve talked with a number of people who recall attending classes in the older building, which eventually became the maintenance shop once the county integrated the school system. 

The 1922 Sanborn Map shows the community's school before Julius Rosenwald provided seed money to imrpove education for African-Americans in Elkton.


There’s still some work to do on this investigation and we’ll look forward to seeing Susan’s final report cataloging these schools throughout Maryland.  In her investigation here she found records clearly documenting the $1,300 contribution to Cecil County’s African-American School children.


2 responses to “President of Sears Helps Build Modern School for African-American Students in Elkton in 1920s

  1. kenneth williams

    Suggestion: A likely candidate for Susan Pearl’s one room Rosewald School investigation is a school in Cedar Hill, Maryland near the Griffith AUMP Church. A photograph of this school can be found in Mike Dixon’s article, “A Walk through History at the Griffith AUMP”, in the March/April 2009 Cecil Soil Magazine, page 21.

  2. Thanks Mr. Williams for letting us know about that.

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