Julius Rosenwald and His Legacy of Fighting Oppression

Julius Rosenwald is not a household name. He is not held up as one of the great heroes of the twentieth century. I would argue, though, that his reach far exceeds those of many whose names are more often uttered.

Julius Rosenwald was an astute businessman. In fact, he was the mind behind Sears, Roebuck, and Company becoming the household name that he never was. At the turn of the twentieth century, amid the robber barons and the gilded age, a man with that fortune lived a life of luxury unseen before among any but royalty. What did Rosenwald do with this well-earned fortune? He founded the Rosenwald Fund.

Rosenwald partnered with Booker T Washington to construct more than 5,000 schools for rural African-American communities in the southern United States. This alone would earn him accolades of how generous he was as a wealthy businessman from Chicago to care about children that were not his and communities that were as far removed from his as possible at the time. It was his legacy that shows this was more than a kind gesture.

His sons, Lessing and William, worked within various organizations in the US to help refugees of World War II before the US was part of the war. Hundreds of people were able to escape the atrocities of Nazi Germany due to their efforts. His granddaughter Nina has been an activist and funder of various initiatives as well.

What does this say about him? We cannot be sure but I believe it shows that he taught his children explicitly to use their position, influence, and financial strength to benefit humanity. I see generations of a family following his example because it was very real and not just a check written and forgotten.

So, what do we have to learn from Mr. Rosenweld? I will tell you what I have learned. It does not matter whose child is in need. It does not matter if they look like me, talk like me, or worship like me. It does not matter if they are useful to me. It does not matter if they live near me or far away. What matters is that there is a human being in need. What matters is whether or not I have the means to help. What matters is that my sons learn that they are on this planet to love and care for ALL of mankind. That is all.

What will your legacy be?