'Rosenwald' provokes gratitude for the deeds of its subject
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.
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.)