Bishop Frederick C. James and the school he attended - old photo
A South Carolina Story about Hope

Our hearts go out to everyone in South Carolina enduring the terrible flooding and continuing rains, and we hope that all in need of assistance are receiving it — or will very soon. I've been trying to reach people by phone to say how much they mean to me and offer any encouragement I can. The Alliance has made many friends in South Carolina in the past 15 years — including unsung pioneers interviewed for "The Force of Ethics in Civil Rights" oral history project, and others in relation to our free educational performance event, "The People of Clarendon County" — A Play by Ossie Davis, & the Answer to Racism.
     I want everyone to know what I'm so grateful I learned from Aesthetic Realism, that our hope to like reality — even under difficult circumstances — and to do all we honestly can to like reality, is our deepest desire and the most sensible way to take care of ourselves.
A Poem by Eli Siegel
      A poem which I care for is "Somewhere Along the Line," by Eli Siegel, from his series of "Hope Poems." In it, the world as known and unknown, logical and confusing, is given musical form that is graceful and matter-of-fact, true and comforting at once.
                Somewhere Along the Line
                 by Eli Siegel
                As we look in any direction,
                We don't know, but there may be some good thing
                Somewhere along the line.
     And now I'd like to tell you about something truly hopeful — a "good thing"— that happened in South Carolina in these recent days.

Bishop Frederick C. James & Prosperity's
Rosenwald School

When I finally reached Bishop Frederick C. James (now 93) in Columbia, I was relieved to hear that he and his wife are faring well. Then I gingerly asked how his dear, unfinished Rosenwald School building in Prosperity, SC had fared. Before I tell his answer, I'll first give some history.
      This school was one of 5,000 built in the South in the 1920s-30s to provide quality education to black children which the racist Jim Crow laws deprived them of. These schools were the vision of
Julius Rosenwald and Booker T. WashingtonJewish businessman Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932), encouraged by educator and former slave Booker T. Washington, and built to improve the lives of black Americans, and would educate hundreds of thousands of children.
Julius Rosenwald (left) and Booker T. Washington (right)
      Frederick James attended the Prosperity Rosenwald school from 1st to 10th grade (1927-37), and his treasured education led to a life as a distinguished theologian and advocate for education, human and civil rights for people of all faiths and ethnicities — in the US and beyond. He marched with Dr. King, opposed the racist apartheid system in South Africa — and attended the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as that country's first black president.
Rosenwald School partially restored, by Jimmy Wayne      For 30 years he has dedicated himself to restoring and preserving the dilapidated building shown at the top of this page — originally one of the most beautiful of Rosenwald schools — so it may be a center of education, culture, and economic uplift for the entire community in the 21st century. (Photo of the partially restored building, above right, is by Jimmy Wayne.) The Alliance was proud to partner with the Bishop in his decades-long effort to raise funds by applying for a grant in his behalf, which would enable us to come to SC and produce our Clarendon County/ Answer to Racism event as a fundraiser for the school.
Puffin logoThe Puffin Foundation answered the call and sent a $1,000 grant for this purpose. And while our other grant-seeking efforts at the time didn't pan out, Bishop James used the Puffin funds to further restore the building's many large windows.
Hope was "Somewhere along the line"
When I asked how his dear Rosenwald school had fared with the flood and rains, Bishop James said that because the school was on high ground, it was not flooded. And he added, "I'd like to thank you for your role in helping to preserve those windows; it also led to helping our school building to withstand these great rains. I will be forever appreciative of that." And he continued, "That Puffin Foundation grant triggered other people to have faith enough to give large gifts — there is encouragement in numbers. I can't talk enough about your role in this."
      Bishop James said further: "I'd like to say what's in my heart. What this nation needs is more caring across ethnic lines. I think our nation and the world needs what Eli Siegel, the great founder of Aesthetic Realism, the philosophy of life in America and the world, teaches. It's certainly in harmony with the great religious scriptures and the heart of all faiths across this globe."

Bishop James in his beloved school
Bishop Frederick C. James in the Rosenwald School in Prosperity, SC, 2014. Photo credit: Alice Bernstein