'Rosenwald' provokes gratitude for the deeds of its subject

( Unrated ) ( Monitor Movie Guide )

Julius Rosenwald, chairman of Sears, Roebuck & Co., was one of the leading philanthropists in the United States in the early 20th century. The dutiful documentary 'Rosenwald' aims to remind viewers of his deeds.

Courtesy Fisk University/John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library/Special Collection
Julius Rosenwald with students from a Rosenwald school. For movie review of 'Rosenwald.'

Julius Rosenwald, chairman of Sears, Roebuck & Co., was one of the leading philanthropists in the United States in the early 20th century, and yet his place in history has been largely overlooked – a mistake Aviva Kempner’s dutiful documentary “Rosenwald” aims to correct. It’s a worthy mission. Rosenwald, following the Jewish concept of tikkun olam – “repairing the world” – partnered with Booker T. Washington to create more than 5,300 schools in the Jim Crow South. (Rosenwald, the son of an immigrant peddler, never finished high school.) One in 3 black children was estimated to have attended a Rosenwald school in the pre-civil rights era. 

He also, through challenge grants, built YMCA facilities and other housing accepting of blacks, and created a fund granting fellowships of as much as $2,000 to black artists and intellectuals, as well as poor white Southerners. The film rolls out the litany of recipients: Gordon Parks Jr., Ralph Ellison, John Hope Franklin, Langston Hughes, Katherine Dunham, Woody Guthrie, and many more. More than awe, the film provokes gratitude for what this man did. Grade: B+ (This film is not rated.)

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to 'Rosenwald' provokes gratitude for the deeds of its subject
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today