In 1913, Booker T. Washington was president of Tuskegee Institute. Though an African-American, and a former slave, Washington was well-educated. At the time, most blacks in Alabama were not so fortunate. Schools in Alabama and across the South offered little or no opportunities for African-Americans.
To address that situation, Washington asked Julius Rosenwald to invest in a modest effort to construct simple, one-room school houses in predominantly black communities. Rosenwald was intrigued by the idea and in 1913 began funding the construction of one and two-room school houses across the state. By the time he was finished, he had expanded the program to 15 states and constructed more than 5300 schools.
The buildings made possible by Rosenwald’s generosity became houses of learning and hope to generations of young minds. Hundreds of thousands of students found in those simple buildings a doorway to a future that only a few years earlier seemed impossible.
Washington was just one man who saw a seemingly insurmountable problem and decided to do something about it. When Rosenwald saw the problem, he decided to help. The next time you see a need in your community and think the situation is hopeless, remember Julius Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington and remind yourself that one person with an idea really can make a difference.