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Early Boycotts of Segregated Schools: The East Orange, New Jersey, Experience, 1899–1906

  • August Meier (a1) and Elliott M. Rudwick (a2)

Extract

Controversy over the issue of school segregation in the North is nearly as old as the history of American public education. Negroes have protested repeatedly against separate schools and classes, and on occasion in the past they even engaged in what would today be called direct action. In 1899 and again in 1905–1906 East Orange, New Jersey, was the scene of Negro protest against public school segregation. In the 1905 instance the colored citizens staged a boycott and established a counterpart of today's “freedom schools,” rather than permit their children to attend separate classes.

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Notes

1. Bureau of the Census, Twelfth Census of the United States … 1900 (Washington, 1900), I, 628; State of New Jersey, Census of 1895 (Trenton, 1895), p. 12; State of New Jersey, Census of 1905 (Trenton, 1905), p. 16.

2. The prominent members of the 1899 protest movement included Rev. John H. Travis, pastor of Calvary; his son, Robert, graduate of East Orange High School's two-year commercial course and later a bookkeeper; Dr. John H. Stillwell, physician and Republican Committeeman from Orange; James H. Vandervall, owner of the Essex Steam Carpet Cleaning Company; William Blunt, a coachman; Lee R. Montague, an insurance agent and editor of a local Negro newspaper (the files of which do not exist); Rev. A. P. Cooper, pastor of the “society” St. Paul A.M.E. Church in Orange; Isaiah King, a contractor; and Rev. George W. Krygar, a native of Germany, educated at the Universities of Heidelberg and Berlin, who had migrated to the United States, married a Negro, and become pastor of the Mt. Olive Baptist Church. Most of these men were also prominent in the 1905–1906 movement. Others who became active at that time included Luther Tate, owner of a carpet-cleaning business; Daniel R. Watkins, proprietor of a blacksmith shop; Rev. D. D. Turpeau, pastor of St. John's Methodist Church in Orange; James E. Churchman, an undertaker and active Republican leader; and Robert Foster, variously listed as a laborer and a gardener. Occupational information was derived mainly from Baldwin's Directory of the Oranges and Townships of Essex County, editions of 1899–1900, 1901–1902, 1904, 1905–1906, 1908. Additional biographical data and the social standing of the different churches were obtained through interviews with old residents of East Orange and their descendants. It should be noted that because of limited economic opportunities, the criteria for membership in the middle and upper classes of the Negro community have differed from the criteria employed among whites. This was even more true sixty years ago than it is today. At that time a long history of free ancestry, a respectable, bourgeois style of life, and service in prominent white families or ownership of a modest business such as a barbershop or blacksmith shop accorded one upper-class status along side of the tiny handful of physicians, schoolteachers, and well-educated ministers.

3. For population data, see New Jersey Census, 1895 and 1905, loc. cit.; for figures on school population see Public School Report of East Orange, N. J., 1899–1900 (no imprint, n.d.), p. 27; Annual School Report of the City of East Orange, 1904 (East Orange, 1904), p. 26; and Evening News (Newark), November 28, 1905. (Hereafter cited as Newark News.)

4. See Census, 1895, loc. cit.

5. 135 of the 168 Negro elementary school pupils in 1898–1899 and 188 of the 248 Negro elementary pupils in 1903–1904 were in these two schools. The following chart, drawn from data in the school board reports (see Note 3, above), illustrates the rising proportion of Negro pupils at Ashland and Eastern schools:

6. Newark News, November 28, 1905. The East Orange elementary schools at the time had an eight-year program divided into two parts of four grades each, primary and grammar. Few East Orange Negroes of that period even completed an eight-year elementary school education, and the number in the high school seldom reached as high as five. Public School Report … 1899–1900, p. 27; Annual School Report … 1903–1904, p. 26.

7. Public School Report of East Orange, 1899–1900, loc. cit.

8. Board of Education of East Orange, Minutes, April 10, June 10, 1899. (Hereafter cited as Board Minutes.)

9. Ibid., April 10, 1899; Newark News, October 7, 1899. See also Newark News, December 5, 1905; Gazette (East Orange), December 7, 1905. (Hereafter cited as Gazette.)

10. Newark News, October 21, 1899.

11. Board Minutes, July 10, 1899; Washington, D.C. Bee, September 23, 1899. On early protests, see also Newark News, September 27, 1899.

12. Gazette, September 28, 1899; Newark News, October 8, 1899.

13. Newark News, September 27 and 28, 1899; Gazette, September 28, 1899.

14. Newark News, September 27 and 28, 1899.

15. Ibid., October 11 and 26, 1899.

16. Ibid., October 7, 1899.

17. Ibid., October 26, 1899.

18. Her name does not appear on the list of teachers given in Board Minutes, April 9, 1900.

19. Board Minutes, May 9, 1900.

20. Newark News, November 21, 1905.

21. Ibid., November 16, 21, December 7, 11, 1905. For rise in number of children at Eastland and Ashland, see table in Note 5 above.

22. Newark News, November 16 and 21, 1905.

23. Ibid., November 21, 1905.

24. Ibid., November 18, 1905.

25. Ibid., November 28, 1905; Board Minutes, November 27, 1905.

26. Newark News, December 5, 1905; see also Board Minutes, December 4, 1905.

27. Newark News, December 6, 1905.

28. Ibid., November 20, 1905; see also New York Age, November 30, 1905.

29. Newark News, November 25, 1905.

30. Ibid., December 6, 1905; see also Baltimore, Md., Afro-American, December 23, 1905. On Fort, Justice of the State Supreme Court 1900–1907, and Governor, 1908–1911, see Who Was Who in America, I (Chicago, 1942), 415.

31. Baltimore Afro-American, December 23, 1905.

32. Newark News, December 7, 1905.

33. Ibid., December 8 and 11, 1905; Gazette, December 14, 1905.

34. Newark News, December 9 and 13, 1905.

35. Ibid., December 23 and 27, 1905.

36. Ibid., January 3, 1906; Gazette, January 4, 1906.

37. Newark News, January 3, 1906; Gazette, January 4, 1906. For formal organization of the Protective Association, see Newark News, December 13, 1905.

38. Gazette, January 4, 1906; Newark News, January 10, 1906.

39. Newark News, December 12, 1905; Gazette, January 4, 1906; Newark News, January 3, 1906.

40. Acts of the One Hundred and Fifth Legislature of the State of New Jersey (Gloucester, N.J., 1881), p. 186; Acts of the Second Special Session of the One Hundred and Twenty-Seventh Legislature of the State of New Jersey (Trenton, 1903), p. 48; State, ex. rel. Jeremiah H. Pierce v. The Union District School Trustees, New Jersey Law Reports, XLVI (1884), 76-79.

41. Newark News, January 10 and 17, 1906.

42. Ibid., December 29, 1905, February 9, September 10, 1906.

43. Gazette, February 1, 1906; Newark News, March 29, 1906.

44. Board Minutes, January 22, 1906; Gazette, January 25, 1906.

45. Newark News, February 12, 1906; see also Board Minutes, February 10, 1906.

46. Gazette, February 15, 1906.

47. Board Minutes, February 17, 1906.

48. Newark News, March 23, 1906.

49. Ibid., March 27 and 29, 1906.

50. Board Minutes, March 26, April 9, 1906; Newark News, March 29, September 10, 1906; Gazette, September 13, 1906.

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