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The Russell Schoolhouse: Durham’s Last Rosenwald School

Image of the Russell School, the last Rosenwald School in Durham County.
Phyllis Mack Horton
The Russell School is the last Rosenwald School in Durham County.

In the early 20th century, Sears Roebuck CEO Julius Rosenwald teamed up with educator and civil rights icon Booker T. Washington to bring formal education to African-Americans in the rural South.

By the 1930s, the result was more than 5,000 schoolhouses in 15 states, including 800 in North Carolina. Today, many of the schools are gone, but an exhibit at the Museum of Durham History highlights the legacy of one Rosenwald School outside of Hillsborough.

The Russell School provided an education for African-American students from 1926 to 1945. And it is the last Rosenwald School standing in Durham County.

Guest host Phoebe Judge talks with Stephanie Pryor, curator of the exhibit; Phyllis Mack Horton, chair of the Historic Russell School Board of Directors; and Joanne Abel, adult programming director at the Durham County Library, about the Russell House and Rosenwald Schools in North Carolina.

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Will Michaels is WUNC's Weekend Host and Reporter.
Phoebe Judge is an award-winning journalist whose work has been featured on a numerous national radio programs. She regularly conducts interviews and anchors WUNC's broadcast of Here & Now. Previously, Phoebe served as producer, reporter and guest host for the nationally distributed public radio program The Story. Earlier in her career, Phoebe reported from the gulf coast of Mississippi. She covered the BP oil spill and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for Mississippi Public Broadcasting and National Public Radio. Phoebe's work has won multiple Edward R. Murrow and Associated Press awards. Phoebe was born and raised in Chicago and is graduate of Bennington College and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.