Unlocking the Doors of Opportunity

The Rosenwald Schools of North Carolina

Filmmakers Tom Lassiter and Jere Snyder, and their nonprofit Longleaf Productions, created this 30-minute documentary.

Southern states largely ignored their responsibilities to educate Black children in the early 20th century. It was, after all, the era of Jim Crow. A collaboration between Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald sought to correct that with a creative approach to building schoolhouses for Black children. North Carolinians took full advantage of the program, building 787 schools plus 26 related facilities, the most of any state.

Rosenwald Schools, which have been described as “the largest educational intervention you’ve never heard of,” changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of African Americans simply by offering the benefits of a basic education. A century after J.R. and Booker T.’s experiment began, it’s an innovation worthy of celebration.

Unlocking the Doors of Opportunity, The Rosenwald Schools of North Carolina is included in this year’s Tryon International Film Festival, which takes place October 7-9, 2022. The film was awarded Best Short Documentary Film.

Longleaf plans to organize local events using the film “to start a dialogue with communities on the partnerships that enabled the schools to be built, their historical impact and the critical importance of education then and now.”