General Assembly Recognizes Wilcox and Arkansas Heritage for Work to Preserve Historic Rosenwald Schools

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Ralph Wilcox

National Register/Survey Coordinator, Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer

Tuesday, April 16th 2024
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas General Assembly passed a concurrent resolution on Tuesday recognizing Ralph Wilcox of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program and the Division of Arkansas Heritage for their efforts to preserve the remaining structures and history of the Rosenwald Schools in Arkansas.

Funded by grants from philanthropist Julius Rosenwald, over 5,000 schools were constructed for African American students between 1912 and 1932. These schools provided educational opportunities at a time when segregation limited access to such resources in the South. Many of these schools fell into disuse and disrepair after the integration of educational facilities later in the twentieth century.

In 2002, after the National Trust for Historic Preservation listed the Rosenwald Schools as some of America's most endangered historic sites, Wilcox and his team began a comprehensive documentation of the surviving Rosenwald Schools in Arkansas. His survey work set a standard, subsequently used as a model by other states. He has also presented his methods at national conferences.

From 2004 to 2006, Wilcox nominated eligible schools for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, Arkansas boasts 11 historic Rosenwald Schools on the National Register.

Dr. Patricia Wright, an alumna of one such school, highlighted the importance of preserving these schools' history: “The significance of the Rosenwald Schools was critical to the education of African American children in the South. Peake High School in Arkadelphia, which opened in 1928 and benefited from the Julius Rosenwald fund, was created to provide equitable educational opportunities for African American children."

Dr. Wright, who began attending the Peake Rosenwald School in the sixth grade, stresses the importance of preserving such institutions for future generations. The 2005 inclusion of Peake Rosenwald on the National Register of Historic Places has helped ensure that its building and legacy will endure.

The resolution notes that despite their historical significance, the Rosenwald Schools and their impact remain largely unknown among Americans. Through the dedicated efforts of Wilcox, the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, and the Division of Arkansas Heritage, these schools are better positioned to educate future generations about the history of African American education in the twentieth century.

The resolution was sponsored by Representatives Tara Shephard, Fred Allen, Milton Nicks, Jr., Kenneth Ferguson, Joy Springer, Vivian Flowers, Jamie Scott, Jay Richardson, and Denise Jones Ennett, and Senators Fredrick Love, Reginald Murdock and Linda Chesterfield.

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Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism

The Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism protects and promotes our state’s natural, cultural and historic assets, contributing to a thriving economy and high quality of life. It is made up of three divisions: Arkansas State Parks, Arkansas Heritage and Arkansas Tourism.


Photos feature the following individuals:

  • Shea Lewis - Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism
  • Marty Ryall - Director of the Division of Arkansas Heritage
  • Ralph Wilcox – National Register and Survey Coordinator & Deputy State Historic Preservation Office
  • Scott Kaufman – Director of Arkansas Historic Preservation Program (AHPP)
  • Tara Shephard – Arkansas State Representative - 79th District, 94th General Assembly 

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