Rosenwald schools were built by African-American communities in cooperation with the Rosenwald Fund. The two-teacher school operated from 1922 to 1958.
CURRIE — My heart breaks over the devastation in Pender County. Of course the first priority is the lives of my neighbors, but structures that reflect the values of Pender County communities are also important. These include the remaining school buildings that African-American families helped build during segregation.
One such building, the former Canetuck Rosenwald School (now Canetuck Community Center) in Currie was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places. According to the N.C. State Historic Preservation Office website “The National Register … is the nation’s official list of buildings, structures, objects, sites, and districts worthy of preservation for their significance in American history.”
Claudia R. Brown, supervisor of the Survey and National Register Branch of the N.C. State Historic Preservation Office, oversaw the site’s application. She states that that “Canetuck was one of the eight schools chosen to be nominated using the Under-Represented Communities grant.”
Rosenwald schools were built by African-American communities in cooperation with the Rosenwald Fund. Canetuck community residents paid taxes, then raised another $1,226 toward the cost of the 1922 school. The extent of Canetuck families’ sacrifice becomes clear when one considers that their average income was 50 cents to $1 per day. The Rosenwald Fund contributed $800, the school board paid $674, and Benjamin Franklin Keith (1858-1924) donated land. The two-teacher school operated from 1922 to 1958. Since that time it has been used as a polling place, for family reunions, and for programs that benefit the community.
A week after Hurricane Florence, most residents of Canetuck were still evacuated and water surrounded the building. Along with the board members and alumni, I will be working towards the recovery of the Center and the Canetuck community. It is not just a building, but a symbol of African-American education heritage.
Claudia Stack, a filmmaker, preservationist and educator, lives in Pender County.
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