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Documentary Sheds Light on Former Sears President’s Monumental Role In the Black Community
Published:
11/18/2015 2:53:12 PM


Julius Rosenwald with students from a Rosenwald School. Courtesy: Fisk University, John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library, Special Collections
 

Julius Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington, Tuskegee Institute, 1915. Courtesy: Special Collections Research, University of Chicago
 
By Damion Smalls

 
During Julius Rosenwald’s time as the president of Sears around the turn of the 20th century, the company became the largest retailer in the United States. His business savvy only represented half the man he was, though.
 
Acclaimed filmmaker Aviva Kempner’s latest documentary, ‘Rosenwald’, tells the story of the Jewish immigrant affectionately known as “JR”, who rose to prominence through enterprise, but left a lasting, yet understated legacy as a staunch supporter of African-Americans, minority rights, education, and charity.
 
High praise from respected Black leaders such as the late civil rights leader Julian Bond, U.S. Representative John Lewis, and former NAACP President Benjamin Jealous permeate this look at the life of the creator of Rosenwald Fund, The Museum of Science and Industry, the Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments and thousands of Rosenwald Schools specifically established for Black students in the era of segregation.  
 
Moved by the Springfield race riots of 1908 and the works of Booker T. Washington (which later turned into a lasting friendship), Rosenwald emphasized with the struggle of Blacks in the U.S. as it reminded him of Jewish persecution. Washington’s returned admiration led to Rosenwald being named to the Board of Directors of Washington’s Tuskegee Institute, now known as the Historically Black College/University Tuskegee University.
 
Rosenwald family members, historians, the late Maya Angelou, actor Ossie Davis, and Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post add to lore of Julius Rosenwald in this biopic with tales of the Pre-Civil Rights time period, in which JR’s philanthropic tendencies resulted in the man giving up over $60 million of his fortune to various causes he championed, mostly concerning Jewish charities, schools, and minority institutions.
 
An in-depth showcase through the voices of a diverse set of interviews, arduous work by Kempner, the improbable accomplishments of a high school dropout combine to make ‘Rosenwald’ a top-notch documentary worth cinematic award consideration and deserved viewings in schools nationwide.  
 
‘Rosenwald’ will be showing at the Citadel Mall Stadium 16 theater (2072 Sam Rittenburg Blvd.) starting on Friday, November 20 for a limited engagement. Go to http://www.southeastcinemas.com/theater-charleston-citadel-mall.htm for showtimes and prices.
 

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