The building, now a community center, is a surviving testament of one of the most dramatic and effective philanthropic initiatives the U.S. has ever seen. From 1912 to 1937, a collaboration between Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington of the Tuskegee Institute built 4,978 schools for Black children across 15 Southern and border states.
Today, at a moment when America seems torn along racial and regional lines, when debates around opportunity, infrastructure and the American Dream ripple across the country, the remarkable success of the Rosenwald-Washington partnership is a reminder that people from divergent experiences can come together to effect real and lasting change.
The Brinkleys bear witness to the multigenerational impact of this program. The brothers attended the one-teacher school in the late 1940s and early 1950s. They went on to college and graduate school, and both became educators. They have four sisters, each of whom also attended the Cairo School and college; the siblings’ 10 children all went to college. Without this schoolhouse, that legacy may not have happened.