Educating Harlem
A Century of Schooling and Resistance in a Black Community


For the digital edition:

Both the Harlem Education History Project and this digital edition owe a great deal to the ideas, labor, and support provided by colleagues in Digital Scholarship at the Columbia Libraries and its precursors. We thank Barbara Rockenbach, Rebecca Kennison, Mark Newton, Alex Gil, Leyla Williams, Nicky Agate, and Ben Armintor, as well as many developers who have contributed to our digital presence beginning in 2013.

Rebecca Kennison and Barbara Rockenbach brought us into the CU Libraries network our work was just beginning. Mark Newton and Alex Gil helped shape and sustain a variety of tools to meet our many and shifting needs. Alex Gil’s work on the concept of minimal computing with the Columbia group for experimental methods in the humanities (xpmethod), and Ed, the Jekyll theme that he developed, are foundations on which this digital edition sits.

Rachel Klepper, a doctoral student in History and Education at Teachers College, developed this digital edition. She also made myriad contributions to the Harlem Education History Project. We thank her for her technical skill, her historical sensibility, and her unflappable good humor.

Lisa Monroe, a doctoral student in History and Education at Teachers College, helped prepare the footnotes for the digital edition.

For the volume:

This book began in a conversation among a few colleagues in the spring of 2012, but it would not have come to fruition without the support and critical engagement of countless people. We would like to thank Teachers College provost Thomas James, who provided initial funding for this collaboration and what has become the Harlem Education History Project. We also appreciated Khalil Muhammad’s early support and engagement with our work during his service as director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. From the start, the team at the Columbia Libraries Digital Humanities Center developed the tools that enabled collaboration among authors and that host the book in its open-access form at

The subsequent conversations that guided this project have taken many forms. Charles Payne, Monica Miller, Tracy Steffes, Kimberley Johnson, Johanna Fernandez, Vanessa Siddle Walker, and Dionne Danns provided feedback as discussants in internal and public conference presentations and helped shape the chapters in their developmental stages. Small and large conversations with Samuel K. Roberts Jr., Jeanne Theoharis, Deirdre Hollman, Joe Rogers Jr., Matthew Delmont, Jack Dougherty, Erica Walker, John Rogers, Paul McIntosh, Deborah Lucas Davis, Karen Taylor, and Terri Watson helped inform us as historians and storytellers. Veronica Holly at the Institute for Urban and Minority Education helped facilitate our work while also sharing her own Harlem history.

Ansley would like especially to thank her Schomburg Center 2017–18 fellowship cohort under the steady leadership of Brent Hayes Edwards. Ernest would like to thank his former staff at the Institute for Urban and Minority Education for their commitment to this project from the outset.

Our work benefited from a tremendous team of doctoral students in the Program in History and Education at Teachers College, who contributed to this work at various and in some cases multiple stages. We appreciate Antonia Abram Smith, Barry Goldenberg, Viola Huang, Jean Park, Esther Cyna, Deidre Flowers, and Rachel Klepper. Esther Cyna helped steer many aspects of the work, and it is all the more pleasing that she appears in the list of contributors as well. Alongside these young scholars, dozens of Teachers College students helped discuss and refine ideas that appear in this volume.

Most of all, we wish to thank the contributors. Together they represent fourteen different institutions, thirteen different kinds of disciplinary homes in the academy. Along with Heather Lewis, they have been wonderful collaborators, willing to join in summer reading groups and online draft comment sessions, game to learn from one another and helpful in articulating from their various perspectives the need for these histories to be in the world.

None of the contributors would have been able to assemble their work without the numerous archivists and librarians who helped curate and preserve the materials that are the grist for our investigations. We would like to thank especially the teams at the Municipal Archives of the City of New York and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, whose work can be found on each page of this book.

Despite this abundance of support, any errors remain ours alone.

As an editorial team, although we came from different starting points, we were both new to Harlem and its history. Through the process that yielded this book, and through ongoing work, we have been honored to share the accounts gathered here and look forward to the further historical investigations that Harlem’s educational history deserves.

Ansley T. Erickson

Ernest Morrell