"Integrated Out of Existence": African American Debates over School Integration versus Separation at the Bordentown School in New Jersey, 1886-1955

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The Bordentown Manual Training and Industrial School for Colored Youth in New Jersey allows us to consider the history of black education from a new perspective: that of northern black educational activists in the first half of the twentieth century. While we know a great deal about how black southerners made school integration central to the civil rights movement in the decades following Brown, as well as later battles for school integration in northern cities like New York and Boston, we know less about how black educational activists in the North advocated for educational equality before Brown. This article expands our understanding of northern black educational activism by analyzing debates over school integration at one of the region's most prestigious all-black public schools. It traces the rise and fall of the Bordentown School in order to consider how and why northern black students, parents, and teachers came to support this "colored" school before 1940 and to determine why this support faded during World War II and the postwar era. This study reveals a division within northern black educational activism over the question of school integration and uncovers a range of educational activism that had conflicting strategies and objectives.



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