LAWRENCEVILLE - Justin Reid, Director, African American Programs with Virginia Humanities and Manger of the General Assembly African American Cultural Resources Task Force, recently visited the James Solomon Russell – Saint Paul’s College Museum and Archives. Reid spent several hours looking at and discussing the museum’s collection. James Grimstead, Chairman of the Museum met with and gave Reid a tour of the museum.
During the visit, Reid recorded the story of the museum as told by Grimstead and took many photographs of the artifacts in the collection. The audio and photography will be shared with audiences around the state through Virginia Humanities’ radio and podcast programs, online resources and a traveling exhibit, which will help promote the museum.
Reid was amazed by the large number of artifacts, photographs and other records related to James Solomon Russell, Saint Paul’s College and the James Solomon Russell High School.
“This is one of the most impressive collections on African American education I’ve ever seen,” said Reid. “It’s a priceless treasure with global significance, right here in Brunswick County. We are committed to doing all that we can to support the museum in preserving and widely sharing this important history.”
Reid also made an interesting discovery while at the museum. A large framed portrait, long thought to be of Giles B. Cooke, is in fact Julius Rosenwald. Reid confirmed that it is Rosenwald and not Cooke in the photograph.
Rosenwald made his fortune in the early 1900s as part owner and president of the Sears, Roebuck Company. He created the Rosenwald Fund in 1917 for “the well-being of mankind”. The fund was set up after he became friends with Booker T. Washington. Washington visited the Saint Paul’s Normal and Industrial School to support the efforts of James Solomon Russell. One of the funds main uses was for the rural building fund program, which provided matching grants, was for the construction of over 5,000 schools and teachers homes mostly in rural southern areas. The schools became known as Rosenwald Schools, which were mostly built to educate African American children.
Cook, a former staff officer of General Robert E. Lee during the Civil War, later became an episcopal priest. He became rector of Saint Stephen’s Church in Petersburg, where he later helped found the Bishop Payne Divinity School. James Solomon Russell was the school’s first student.
Grimstead was very pleased that Reid took the time to visit the museum and for the support offered by Virginia Humanities.
“Having Justin Reid, who is well experienced in the field of museums and the humanities, review our museum operation and give us high marks is a great incentive for making our museum project the best it can be to our supporters and followers,” said Grimstead. “We look forward to partnering with Virginia Humanities as we grow a great future for the museum.”
Virginia Humanities, located in Charlottesville at the University of Virginia, was created in 1974 through money and support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Virginia Humanities connects people and ideas to explore the human experience and inspire cultural engagement.
The museum is partnering with the Board of Supervisors with a planned move to the Brunswick County Conference Center and will be having a Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting on Aug. 10 at 1 p.m.