Students of segregation-era schools push for restoration

At least a dozen window panes are missing and other repair work is needed to fully rehabilitate the former Durham's Chapel school – also known as a "Rosenwald School" for Sears Roebuck and Co. president Julius Rosenwald, who funded it and nearly 5,000 others for black children in the South in the early 1900s.

Historians don't know how many schools are left standing, and several states are conducting surveys to try to identify how many have survived and if these crumbling remnants of the Jim Crow era can be refurbished.

Scores of blacks at the time would likely have gone without an education had it not been for the schools, which educated close to 664,000 students in 15 states before the program ended in 1932.

Most of the schools closed by the 1960s in the wake of integration and many were then torn down, converted to homes or turned into community centers. Others were left to fall apart.

Former Rosenwald students have also formed alumni groups in recent years to draw attention to the buildings' decrepit condition, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation named the schools to its list of America's Most Endangered Historic Places in 2002.

North Carolina, the state that had the most Rosenwald schools at 787, is one of several Southern states in the process of tracking down its remaining schools.

Others like Arkansas have completed their survey, which found that less than 4 percent of the nearly 390 schools and other structures like teacher's homes built with Rosenwald funds are still in existence.

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