Julius Rosenwald and Rosenwald Schools Study Act of 2019
STATEMENT OF SHAWN BENGE, ACTING DEPUTY DIRECTOR, OPERATIONS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, REGARDING S. 1863, TO REQUIRE THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR TO CONDUCT A SPECIAL RESOURCE STUDY OF THE SITES ASSOCIATED WITH THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF NOTED AMERICAN PHILANTHROPIST AND BUSINESS EXECUTIVE JULIUS ROSEWALD, WITH A SPECIAL FOCUS ON THE ROSEWALD SCHOOLS, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
March 4, 2020
Chairman Daines, Ranking Member King, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to provide the Department of the Interior’s views on S. 1863, to require the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a special resource study of the sites associated with the life and legacy of noted American philanthropist and business executive Julius Rosenwald, with a special focus on the Rosenwald Schools, and for other purposes.
The Department recognizes that Julius Rosenwald and the Rosenwald Schools represent an important story in American history. However, we do not support enactment of S. 1863 at this time, as resources are needed to reduce the National Park Service’s deferred maintenance backlog and address other critical infrastructure needs. The Department urges Congress to pass legislation addressing the deferred maintenance needs of its bureaus.
Julius Rosenwald left a remarkable legacy, including his significant philanthropic contributions to the construction of schools for African-American children under the direction of the Julius Rosenwald Fund. The school program was created in partnership with Booker T. Washington and funded through donations from Julius Rosenwald and local African-American communities, resulting in the construction of over 5,000 schools and associated buildings in 15 states. The Rosenwald School system was instrumental in the effort to bring educational parity to AfricanAmerican children living in the segregated South.
The NPS supports the preservation of Rosenwald Schools and the legacy of Julius Rosenwald through programs we administer directly, as well as in partnership with other organizations. Nearly 70 Rosenwald Schools located across 12 states are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Eight State Historic Preservation Offices have developed National Register procedures to facilitate the identification and nomination of these important historic resources. The NPS has provided over $600,000 in grants that supported the restoration of Rosenwald Schools, the architectural survey and nomination of school sites, the development of education and outreach materials, and the preservation and digitization of the Rosenwald School archives housed at Fisk University. We also note the tremendous work being achieved by the National Trust for Historic Preservation through their Rosenwald Schools Initiative including extensive research of the sites, providing grant funding to the properties, hosting workshops, and creating publications on how to preserve Rosenwald Schools.
S. 1863 calls for the study of “sites associated with the life and legacy of Julius Rosenwald, with special emphasis on the Rosenwald Schools”. The Department has concerns about the breadth of subject matter that phrase might cover. If the Committee decides to move forward with this legislation, we would appreciate the opportunity to work with the Committee to refine the scope of the study.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.