Whenever I go up toward Oxford, I like to check in on the Bynum School off the beaten track in Panola County. I’ve been around to lots of places that used to have Rosenwald schools, and as far as I know, Bynum is the last example of a one-classroom (or technically “one-teacher”) Rosenwald school left in the state.
You no doubt recall Rosenwald Schools from last month’s look at the Randolph School in Pass Christian; if not, check out the National Trust’s Rosenwald Initiative site, where it gives a brief synopsis of this important philanthropic movement to build schools for (mostly) rural African American students from the 1910s-1932:
The Rosenwald School Building Program has been called the “most influential philanthropic force that came to the aid of Negroes at that time.” It began in 1912 when Booker T. Washington approached Julius Rosenwald, President of Sears, Roebuck and Company, with an idea for a pilot program that was to have a dramatic impact on the face of the rural South. Washington’s idea eventually led to the creation of the Julius Rosenwald Foundation. This foundation provided seed grants for the construction of more than 5,300 buildings in 15 states, including schools, shops, and teachers’ houses which were built by and for African Americans.
Bynum School was built to one of s series of standard plans sent out by the Rosenwald Fund to almost all of their grantees. Unless an architect was involved in the building, which was very rare (but did happen, for instance with the Randolph School in Pass Christian), the Rosenwald Fund required that the schools be built to these particular plans, in order to ensure a quality learning environment as it was understood at the time. Bynum was built to Plan #1-A, published in the Rosenwald booklet Community School Plans:
Maybe somebody out there knows better than I do, but I think that the Bynum School is still in at least nominal use as a community center. It is pretty isolated from the larger communities around it, which has probably helped save it from the development pressures of Oxford and its environs. I’ve never been inside the building as it has always been well-secured. Mississippi has a very low survival rate for these buildings, less than 20 out of the original 600+ Rosenwald buildings are still standing, and many of those are just hanging on. I’m thankful Bynum is one of them.