History of the Museum

The Smithfield Schoolhouse Museum was built in 1932 as an addition to the Christian Home School, circa 1924, a historic Rosenwald School.  The Christian Home School was originally on two acres of land in the Chuckatuck area in the eastern part of Isle of Wight County, Virginia.  In the 1920's, Julius Rosenwald, a former Sears, Roebuck and Company president, contributed $4.3 million to build more than 5,000 schools across the South for black students.  Black communities raised $4.7 million in matching funds to build the schools.

In Isle of Wight County, Virginia, community members raised money of their own, and petitioned the county for money to expand the Christian Home School.  This addition has all of the architectural features of the original Rosenwald buildings although it was not built directly with Rosenwald funds.  The original part of the building, that part which was built with Rosenwald funds, had deteriorated to the point that it could not be saved or repaired. 

The addition to the Christian Home School was moved to the historic district of Smithfield February 4, 2005, to be renovated and opened as a museum.  This was the town of Smithfield's project to commemorate Jamestown 2007, the 400th anniversary of the first permanent English settlement in North America.   With support from the county, the town, the business community, organizations, and private donors, renovations were completed and The Schoolhouse Museum was opened to the public May 19, 2007.  This building stands as a reminder of strong black communities that demanded more educational opportunities for its youth.


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