By Todd Cohen
WAKE FOREST, N.C. — After restoring two building on its 17-acre campus in Wake Forest, the DuBois Center is kicking off a five-year campaign to raise $12 million to renovate the remaining six buildings.
The first phase of the campaign calls for raising $2 million over two years from private donors to transform the campus’ oldest building into a museum celebrating the national network of 5,300 black schools in 15 southern states built in the 1920s and ‘30s.
That network, funded by philanthropist Julius Rosenwald, who headed the Chicago-based Sears retail chain, included 21 schools in Wake County and 813 in North Carolina, the most in any state.
“The whole purpose of the museum is to raise awareness about the struggle for black education,” says Bettie Edwards Murchison, who is the center’s executive director and attended school on the campus through 10th grade.
Fundraising for the museum kicked off April 2 at the center and will target the school’s roughly 1,000 graduates, asking them to buy bricks for a memorial wall dedicated to the legacy of W.B. DuBois, the scholar and educator who was the first African American to receive a doctoral degree from Harvard.
Donors also can buy bricks for a “walk of fame” that will serve as a tribute to Booker T. Washington, who launched the effort to build elementary schools for blacks and was president of Tuskeegee Institute in Alabama when Rosenwald served on its board.
The center last fall received $70,000 from Wake County to stabilize the museum building by removing its roof, which had been causing its walls to buckle.
The first phase of the fundraising campaign also aims to secure another $1 million through a combination of county and corporate funding to turn an adjacent building that housed the school’s administrative offices and high school into a business incubator.
The second phase of the campaign, to last up to two years, calls for raising $6 million to $7 million to develop a community day-care center, offices and a culinary arts institute, while the final phase calls for raising $2 million to $3 million to develop another building to house offices and classrooms.
After buying the campus in 1998 for $350,000, the center received roughly $300,000 from the town of Wake Forest to renovate what had been a “gymtorium” as a multi-purpose center,.
The center also renovated what had been an agriculture and shop building for use as as a police substation for the town, a training center and a computer lab.
With an annual budget of $350,000 and a staff of 15 full-time and roughly 85 part-time employees, the center serves about 1,000 people with a range of programs, many of them offered in partnership with schools and organizations that include N.C. State University, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Technical Community College and the Wake Area Health Education Center.
Programs include a food pantry, computer classes and repair, after-school tutorials, job-training, mental-health counseling, high-school equivalency classes, courses for students suspended from school, community concerts and a community marching band.
For information, call 919.554.2030.