Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Has Awarded Fisk University $1.6 Million to Support Digitization Project

Julius Rosenwald with students during one of his visits to “Rosenwald Schools”. Fisk University, John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library Special Collections, Julius Rosenwald Fund Archives, n.d.

The Fisk University John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library has received $1.6 million from the Mellon Foundation to support the implementation of a new digital platform for the Julius Rosenwald Fund Collection. This four-year project will provide unprecedented public access to a collection of over 650,000 items and more than 1.4 terabytes of data online.


Mellon Foundation is a not-for-profit organization established in 1969 to support the arts and humanities and their contributions to human flourishing. Through their grants, the Mellon Foundation seeks to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking.


Assistant Director of Library Services and Principal Investigator (PI) for the grant DeLisa Minor Harris said, “This project will draw thousands of preservationists, historians, and researchers interested in the Rosenwald Schools, the Rosenwald Fund, and other Rosenwald-related materials to our digital collection. In addition, this grant will help us develop a sustainable and accessible digital gateway that may serve as a model for other Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).”


Fisk University and the John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library has sought to promote continued interest in the work of philanthropist Julius Rosenwald since Harlem Renaissance writer and Fisk University Librarian Arna Bontemps acquired the collection in 1948. Julius Rosenwald helped uplift the black community by building over 5,000 schools and auxiliary buildings in rural areas across the South between 1912 and 1932. Fisk University has always shared in his interest for social justice, and we are fortunate to have in our library several Rosenwald-related collections that tell the story of the rural schools, library program, and bus services for the transportation of black children to and from school.


This grant, which strengthens and enhances the relationship between Fisk and the Mellon Foundation, was awarded under the umbrella of the Foundation’s Public Knowledge program. It will allow for increased productivity for staff members who previously may not have been able to fulfill research requests for items in the Rosenwald Fund Collection. Once completed, the digital infrastructure and technologies of the John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library will be enhanced, and the public will gain greater access to important materials in our Special Collections and Archives.