Julius Rosenwald was born August 12, 1862 in Springfield, Illinois.

“Treat people fairly and honestly
and generously and their
response will be fair and
honest and generous.”

Rosenwald was the long time president and chairman of Sears, Roebuck & Company. Starting in 1911, his matching grant philanthropic programs helped build dozens of Young Men’s Christian Association branches for African Americans.

Rosenwald promised to give a community $25,000 towards the construction of new or new Y facilities if that community could raise $75,000 on its own within 5 years.

The mid-1910s saw many new Y.M.C.A. buildings for African Americans including the Wabash Avenue Y on Chicago’s South Side, the Christian Street Y in Philadelphia, and the Carlton Avenue Y in Brooklyn.

People rallied around this cause. For example, in Chicago, 10,000 black donors — 25% of the African American population — gave $67,000 to the Wabash Y fund.

In all, twenty-five Colored Y.M.C.A.s were built in twenty-three American cities with help from Rosenwald’s program.

These “colored” branches helped pave the way the emergence and growth of black basketball during a time when most athletic facilities were racially segregated.


Rosenwald also did a whole lot more than just help build Colored Y.M.C.A.s. He has a fascinating life story as well as historical importance in other areas, too. So check him out in more detail when you get the chance.

(Photo courtesy of the Kautz Family YMCA Archives.