NYC’s former Colored School No. 4 may soon become a landmarked site thanks to a proposal by the Landmark Preservation Commission.
Located on West 17th Street in Chelsea, the three-story, brick building was constructed in 1849-50 by the New York City Public School Society. Today, it stands as the last-known, former segregated school in Manhattan, exclusively for Black students.
The nearly 175-year old school building stands as a historical, pre-Civil War site that is a reminder of NYC’s public education for African American students in the 19th-century.
Colored School No. 4 “illustrates how education afforded crucial opportunities and skills to Black students as they struggled against the discrimination and inequities that were part of their daily life,” shared the Landmark Preservation Commission.
The school belonged to the City of New York following the establishment of the Board of Education in 1853. In 1860 it was known as Colored School No. 7.
By 1866, Manhattan had eight primary schools teaching 2,377 African American students when the name was officially changed to Colored School No. 4.
It was again renamed in 1884 as Grammar School No. 81 when the term “Colored” was discarded from the names of NYC public schools. However, the school still only served African American students. It wasn’t until 1894 that the NYC public school system shuttered all segregated schools.
Significant teachers and students affiliated with Colored School No. 4 include former principal Sarah J. S. (Tompkins) Garnet, who was an avid suffragist and one of NYC’s first female principals in the public school system. Susan Elizabeth Frazier, NYC’s first African American teacher within an integrated public school, and Walter F. Craig, renowned composer and violinist, were among some notable graduates.
“Colored School No. 4 illustrates not only what a small NYC public school looked like before the Civil War, but also the story of prominent teachers and graduates within the African American community who excelled within their areas of expertise and valued education as they struggled for civil liberties and opportunities,” wrote the Landmark Preservation Commission in their “calendaring” (first part of the designation process) proposal.
See the proposal for calendaring here.
Where: 128 West 17th Street, Manhattan