A Sarah Mills Hodge Fund publication
Born to Jewish immigrants, Julius Rosenwald rose to lead Sears, Roebuck & Company and turn it into the world's largest retailer. Born into slavery, Booker T. Washington became the founding principal of Tuskegee Institute. In 1912 the two men launched an ambitious program to partner with black communities across the segregated South to build public schools for African American children. This watershed moment in the history of philanthropy-one of the earliest collaborations between Jews and African Americans-drove dramatic improvement in African American educational attainment and fostered the generation who became the leaders and foot soldiers of the civil rights movement.
Of the original 4,978 Rosenwald schools built between 1917 and 1937 across fifteen southern and border states, only about 500 survive. While some have been repurposed and a handful remain active schools, many remain unrestored and at risk of collapse. To tell this story visually, Andrew Feiler drove more than twenty-five thousand miles, photographed 105 schools, and interviewed dozens of former students, teachers, preservationists, and community leaders in all fifteen of the program states.
A Better Life for their Children includes eighty-five duotone images that capture interiors and exteriors, schools restored and yet-to-be restored, and portraits of people with unique, compelling connections to these schools. Brief narratives written by Feiler accompany each photograph, telling the stories of Rosenwald schools' connections to the Trail of Tears, the Great Migration, the Tuskegee Airmen, Brown v. Board of Education, embezzlement, murder, and more.
Beyond the photographic documentation, A Better Life for Their Children includes essays from three prominent voices. Congressman John Lewis, who attended a Rosenwald school in Alabama, provides an introduction; preservationist Jeanne Cyriaque has penned a history of the Rosenwald program; and Brent Leggs, director of African American Cultural Heritage at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, has written a plea for preservation that serves as an afterword.
Andrew Feiler is a fifth generation Georgian. Having grown up Jewish in Savannah, he has been shaped by the rich complexities of the American South, and of being a minority in the South. Andrew has long been active in civic life. He has helped create over a dozen community initiatives, serves on multiple not-for-profit boards, and is an active advisor to numerous elected officials and political candidates. His art is an extension of his civic values.
Andrew’s Rosenwald school images have received a number of pre-publication honors. Photolucida named them a 2020 Top 50 portfolio and Photoville selected them for The Fence, an outdoor exhibition displayed internationally in eleven cities. They were also part of the Currents 2020 exhibition at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans. The solo exhibition of this work will premiere at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta in May 2021.
Andrew's photographs have been featured in Slate, Lenscratch, Oxford American, The Bitter Southerner, Aint-Bad, numerous newspapers, and on NPR. His work has been displayed in galleries and museums including solo exhibitions at the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Octagon Museum (American Institute of Architects) in Washington, D.C., International Civil Rights Center & Museum in Greensboro, NC, Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum in Savannah, Burrison Gallery of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Southeast Center for Photography in Greenville, SC, and City Gallery in Charleston, SC. His work is in a number of public and private collections including that of Atlanta University Center and Emory University.
Andrew earned his bachelor’s in economics from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He earned a master’s in modern history from Oxford University and a master’s in business administration from Stanford University. Andrew’s work can be seen at andrewfeiler.com.
This virtual event is free and open to the public. A Better Life for Their Children is available for purchase online at A Cappella Books.
Promotional language provided by publisher.