Canetuck Rosenwald School to celebrate 100th Anniversary on Nov. 5

The Public is Invited from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

In the early 1900s, when schools were segregated the community of Canetuck petitioned the county school board three times for a school building.

The families, mostly sharecroppers, and laborers raised $1,226 toward a school building. Benjamin Franklin Keith and his wife, Lily, donated four acres to the school.

Philanthropist Julius Rosenwald, of the Sears and Robuck Co., joined in the support of the Canetuck School through his foundation, The Rosenwald Fund.

In 1922, the Black children of Canetuck entered their new school building at 6098 Canetuck Road.

Verta Kea, 74, remembers attending school close to home.

“The teachers were good, and they helped us,” remembers Kea, who is the current president of the Canetuck Community Center.

The Canetuck School operated from 1922 to 1960.

According to filmmaker/educator Claudia Stack, the Canetuck School was built as a two-teacher school and at times offered the first through sixth grade or up to seventh grade. When the West Pender School opened in 1957, all the small schools serving Black students in western Pender County were sent to the new school, except for Canetuck students, who were transferred in 1960.

“The Canetuck School has several classic Rosenwald features,” said Stack. “Large window that allows indirect light so that shadows would not fall across the page on which the student was writing, two cloakrooms, a small stage area, and an ‘industrial classroom’ in the front of the building – which was never used for industrial education.”

Stack has produced documentaries about the Rosenwald Schools, sharecropping, and education through her company Stack Stories. A list of documentaries can be found at

Today the school is on the National Register of Historic Places. It continues to serve the community of Canetuck as the community center.

On Nov. 5, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. the Canetuck Rosenwald School will welcome visitors to join in the celebration of the school’s 100th Anniversary. The celebration activities will include tours, games outdoor, food, and a sharing of the history of the school and memories of school activities.

Stack said the event will include a short documentary featuring interviews of alumni by Pender Early College students. The documentary, directed by Stack, is entitled Seeing it in Color.

The late Lois Keith, who started first grade at the Canetuck School in 1922, finished her local education at the Pender County Training School in Rocky Point. She became a “baby nurse,” caring for infants in New York. Upon retirement, she returned home to Canetuck and worked diligently with other families to renovate the school to form the Canetuck Community Senior Center.

Many local families contributed to the restoration of Canetuck School which included the Barnhills, Beatty, Bibbs, Brown, Corbett, Fennell, Graham, Henry, Kea, Keith, Lloyd, Marshall, Moore, Shaw, Sykes, and other families. Keith passed away in 2008 and did not get to see the completion of the community center project.

The Rosenwald Fund contributed to 18 school buildings on 15 campuses in Pender County. The Canetuck School is the best preserved in Pender County. The National Trust for Historic Preservation noted that of the 5,357 schools, shops, and teacher homes constructed between 1917 and 1932, only 10 to 12 percent are estimated to survive today.

Canetuck School is a gem of history that is ready to celebrate 100 years, thanks to the preservation and perseverance of local families.  

The Canetuck School is on the Pender County African American Heritage Trail