Durbin Leads Colleagues in Urging Biden Administration to Establish National Monument to Julius Rosenwald

The son of German Jewish immigrants and native of Springfield, IL, Rosenwald partnered with Booker T. Washington to build more than 5,000 schools in the South for Black children that lacked education opportunities during the Jim Crow era

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), along with U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), today sent a letter to President Biden urging him to employ his authority under the Antiquities Act to create a national monument in honor of Julius Rosenwald. 

Son of German Jewish immigrants, Julius Rosenwald made Sears, Roebuck and Company the retail powerhouse of the 20th century, but he used his wealth to fund his philanthropic efforts.  During the Jim Crow era, Rosenwald partnered with Booker T. Washington and nearly 5,000 Black communities in the South to build schools, across 15 states, for children without educational opportunities.  A total of 5,357 Rosenwald School facilities were constructed, educating one-third of Black Americans in the South, including alumni Congressman John Lewis, Medgar Evers, and Maya Angelou.

In their letter, the Senators called on the Biden Administration to establish a national monument in recognition of Rosenwald’s work.  They noted that the National Park Service (NPS) has already started a Special Resource Study on Rosenwald.

“Julius Rosenwald’s philanthropy changed the course of African American education in the South and had significant impacts on our society.  We support elevating the story, people, and schools that facilitated that change through the creation of a national monument,” the Senators wrote.  “In 2022, after the Julius Rosenwald and the Rosenwald Schools Act of 2020 (P.L. 116-336) was signed into law, the National Park Service began conducting a Special Resource Study (SRS) on the life and legacy of Julius Rosenwald and the Rosenwald Schools.  The SRS is estimated to be completed in the spring of 2024.”

The Senators went on to list potential sites for the national monument in Maryland and Illinois.

“This effort is supported by the Campaign to Create the Julius Rosenwald & Rosenwald Schools National Historical Park (Campaign), the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  All three organizations recommend that the national monument consist of the San Domingo Rosenwald School in Wicomico County, Maryland; Rosenwald’s boyhood home in Springfield, Illinois; and an easement on the Nichols Tower in the former Sears, Roebuck and Company merchandising plant in the North Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago,” the Senators wrote.

The Senators concluded the letter by explaining the historical significance of establishing a national monument for Julius Rosenwald.

“A national monument would be of national historical significance and the first to commemorate the life and legacy of a Jewish American.  It also would acknowledge the impact of Rosenwald Schools in the segregated South, and address early Black-Jewish partnerships and the role of philanthropy in the United States.  Importantly, a national monument also would pay tribute to the value of education as an equalizing force.  As Julius Rosenwald so aptly stated, ‘I do not see how America can go forward if part of its people are left behind,’” wrote the Senators.

In addition to Durbin, Duckworth, Cardin, and Van Hollen, U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Mark Warner (D-VA)  also signed the letter.

A copy of the letter is available here and below: