The Campbell County Training School was built in the early 1900s. It was the first post elementary facility for African Americans in Campbell County and started by offering a two-year session. Booker T. Washington's philosophy of education was a huge influence on the curriculum which initially focused on domestic skills for women and vocational training for men.
The school was partially financed by Julius Rosenwald, a Jewish co-owner of Sears, Roebuck and Company, and he provided funding for over 5,000 schools throughout the southern states following the Civil War. Two local black citizens, Gabe T. Hunt and Rev. Thomas T. Tweedy are credited with contributing a large portion of the community funds for the school. The school evolved over time and provided more comprehensive coursework. Eventually, a new CCTS school was built nearby and the name was changed to Campbell County High School in 1952. The school was closed in 1969 when Campbell County desegregated all public schools.
The school is located at 1470 Village Highway, Rustburg, Virginia, which is also state route 24. From Lynchburg, this location provides an easy access route to Appomattox County Court House, the place where our country reunited after the civil war. The location is also within a relatively short driving distance to Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest in Bedford County, Patrick Henry's homesite in Brookneal, Virginia and numerous other historical points of interest in Central Virginia.
A national movement exists today to identify and preserve all schools that Rosenwald helped finance, but sadly many are beyond repair or have been demolished. The Campbell County Training School is unique due to the relatively good condition of the buildings which are still standing. Unlike many former Rosenwald schools which were closed after the desegregation of Virginia's public schools, portions of Campbell County Training School were continually used for some type of educational activity until the current Campbell County School Administration Office was built. Afterwards, the buildings were used as a county storage facility. Recognizing the historical and tourism significance, the Campbell County Board of Supervisors placed the nine acre tract and four remaining buildings under the guidance of the Campbell County NAACP which commissioned an all-volunteer team to restore it.
The goals of the volunteer committee are twofold. The first priority is to renovate the buildings without compromising the historical value. The second aim is to supplement the educational needs which aren't being met by other programs in the county. Workshops, classes and training in the areas of health, wellness, gardening, DIY home care, simple automobile maintenance, aging, elderly care, child care and job preparedness are just a few of the topics that have been suggested by community members. Additionally, plans include a museum to display artifacts of local interest and showcase revolving displays highlighting county citizens whose lives have been positively influential in Campbell County. An auditorium will provide space for larger group activities and cultural events such as banquets, concerts and plays.
The Campbell County Training School Complex Committee is a 501c3 organization and the renovation plan is funded by donations, volunteer services and other fundraising activities. The funding sources are in keeping with Rosenwald's philosophy regarding community involvement. The biggest benefactor to date has been the Fray Family Trust, an entity connected to Mr. J. J. Fray, the Superintendent of Campbell County Schools during the time the training school was opened.
The Campbell County Training School Complex Committee is most appreciative of the donations and services of all individuals, businesses, organizations and faith-based communities to restore this historical site which has been dubbed "the school on the hill."
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The architectural features of the Rosenwald Schools greatly improved the quality of schools for African Americans in the South. By 1932, the Rosenwald Fund had produced 4,977 new schools, 217 teacher homes, 163 shop buildings at a total cost of $28,408, 520. Today, that would be approximately $280,500,000. In Virginia, 371 schools were constructed. All counties in Virginia, (except the 4 counties in the Appalachian region), had at least one Rosenwald School.
Many Rosenwald Schools remained open until Brown v. Board of Education (1954) banned racially segregated public schools. Prior to them closing, Rosenwald Schools served generations of teachers, students, parents, and the communities in general.
The schools provided adequate lighting, ventilation, separate outhouses, coatroom, and quality blackboards and desks. There were separate designs for schools that faced east or west, and those that faced north or south. The plans also specified that the windows be placed so that the light came only from the students’ left.
Rosenwald School Today
In 2002, The National Trust for Historic Preservation placed the Rosenwald Schools on its list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.
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