While the National Rosenwald Schools Conference shared information through its 54 education sessions, documentary screenings and discussions with preservationists to encourage those in attendance to help save the historic schools, Reed was privileged to present at the conference on the life of Clinton Calloway and his contribution to a building program that provided seed grants for the construction of more than 5,300 buildings, including schools, workshops, and teacher’s homes for African-Americans in 15 states from 1913 to 1932.
At the same time, Reed was excited to shed light on a Cleveland native who had accomplished so much for what little was known about him.
“For Cleveland, this is uncovering history that has not been written before,” Reed said. “When doing research on Clinton Calloway I was amazed to find lots of references to his early life of being born here but there was no story on his life before he left Cleveland to these other places.”
Reed was joined by descendants of Calloway at the event where they discussed how the Rosenwald Schools building program began through a suggestion to Tuskegee’s president, Booker T. Washington, by Cleveland native, Clinton J. Calloway, who served as the director of the college’s Extension Department. His suggestion was to gain the financial support for erecting modern school buildings from Julius Rosenwald of Chicago, who was part owner and president of the Sears, Roebuck and Company.
Reed, who is also president of the Bradley County Historical and Genealogical Society, said, “My presentation focused on the early life of Calloway before he relocated to Alabama in 1895. He was born on April 18, 1869 to former slaves George and Elizabeth (Grant) Calloway. Prior to his birth, his father and two uncles, William Calloway and Leander Grant, became trustees in the establishment of the Freedmen’s school in Cleveland.
“Another of Clinton’s uncles, John Grant, and his aunt, Sarah Grant, became assistant teachers in this school and later became the first family members to attend Fisk University (in Nashville). Other members who followed in attending Fisk during the 1880s include Clinton’s brothers John, James, and Thomas.”
This revelation helped to explain why Clinton Calloway left Cleveland. Reed said it was linked to advancing his education and attending a university where so many of his family members had gone.
“All of his brothers and several aunts and uncles went to Fisk,” Reed said. “He had to leave Cleveland in order to have more social and economic mobility. There were no opportunities for him in Cleveland.”
His brother John unexpectedly died in 1886, but James and Thomas completed their degrees and were able to secure positions working at Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute.
“The devotion Calloway had to providing education for blacks was deeply influenced from his family members,” Reed added. “He completed his elementary education in Cleveland, but unlike his brothers, he finished his schooling in Chattanooga where his aunts, Sarah and Tena Grant, became two of the first black teachers in the city. After completing high school in 1889, Calloway attended Fisk, where he completed his degree in 1895.
“Following graduation, he was recruited by a fellow classmate from Alabama, William E. Benson, to be principal of a new black secondary vocational school in Elmore County, Ala., named the Kowaliga Academic and Industrial Institute, where he served until 1901,” Reed said.
“His wife, Josie Schooler Calloway, was an educator at the first College Hill School (in Cleveland) before the Rosenwald fund was used to build a new, larger facility. When he left for Alabama he recruited her to teach in his new school at Kowaliga. She moved there in 1895 and they married in 1901.”
Julius Rosenwald’s direct connection with Tuskegee came in 1912, when he joined the board of directors of the college. In September of the same year, Rosenwald funded the partial cost for the first six experimental schools in three Alabama counties. After their construction he increased the funding to build 100 Alabama schools under the management of Calloway, according to Reed. By 1920, 638 schools in 10 states had been built through the fund.
From the Rosenwald fund, Bradley County had three African-American schools constructed from 1921 to 1924. These were St. Elmo, Charleston School (later named High Point), and College Hill.
The Kowaliga school gained the endorsement of Booker T. Washington. However, after a falling out in the relationship between Calloway and William Benson, Washington withdrew his support of the school and brought Calloway to Tuskegee as a special assistant to George Washington Carver, Reed said.
Calloway had served in a new extension department of the Agricultural Experiment Station, taking charge of all of the extension work for the school in 1905. During his service as the director of the Extension Department, Calloway devoted his time to expanding educational opportunities for African-Americans through the management of the Jeanes and Rosenwald Funds. Prior to directing the Rosenwald Fund, Calloway managed the Anna T. Jeanes Fund, which made it possible for counties in southern states to fund the first home economics teachers, according to Reed.
“The first in Bradley and McMinn County was a cousin of Calloway — Vivian Gilmore,” said Reed, who quotes Calloway as saying in 1927, “My experience (at Kowaliga) gave me a working knowledge of how to organize communities and build schoolhouses.”
Calloway retired from Tuskegee in 1935, at the age of 66, and died on April 2, 1940. He is interred at the Tuskegee University Cemetery.”According to historical accounts, Julius Rosenwald gave Booker T. Washington permission to use a portion of the money that Rosenwald donated to the Tuskegee Institute for the construction of six small schools in rural Alabama 100 years ago. By 1928, one in every five rural schools for African American students in the South was a Rosenwald school.By the program’s conclusion in 1932, Rosenwald had contributed more than $4.3 million and African Americans had raised $4.7 million to build 4,977 new schools, 217 teachers’ homes and 163 shop buildings which served 663,615 students in 883 counties of 15 states.
Descendants of Rosenwald, Calloway and Booker T. Washington were on hand with Reed at the National Rosenwald Schools Conference: 100 Years of Pride, Progress, and Preservation event. They participated in sessions throughout the conference, making it a huge success. In the months ahead, the team plans to design and implement workshops, develop a digital media campaign and establish a grant program to support the work to save Rosenwald schools.
“Clinton Calloway is a part of the national story of the efforts for African-Americans to have opportunities toward achieving equality, making him an early pioneer in the struggle for civil rights,” said Reed, who is continuing to research and document the lives of Cleveland African-Americans who made landmark contributions and advancements for African-Americans.