I am currently working on a paper on how Trenton Central High School in Trenton, NJ became racially segregated after Brown. It is clear that between the years 1954-2015 the school underwent a dramatic racial transformation. The school was all white in the 50’s, however, today the school is essentially all black. The question is how did this happen?
By viewing the Trenton Central high school yearbooks, the Bobashela, I found that in 1954 the students and teachers at the school were all white. Well actually there were a few black kids on the pages; they probably made their way into the school just after Brown. Ten years later, by 1964, we find that a racial transition was well underway. While the principal and most of the teachers were white, more blacks can be found on the pages. This suggests that black population was increasing or that African Americans were “moving in” to local neighborhoods. Information provided by the Census Bureau indicates that between 1960 and 1970 Trenton’s White population declined by 27.2%. By contrast the city’s Black population grew 56% during this same time period. It is possible that a significant number of Blacks migrated north in an attempt to escape the racial antagonisms of the south and find employment in northern cities, including Trenton, NJ. This migration and the passage of Brown, surely affected the racial composition of the Trenton Central High School between the years 1960 and 1970.
Historians have pointed to the 1968 riots at the turning point in the Trenton. Reportedly 200 windows were destroyed and scores of buildings were burned to the ground. Instead of rebuilding, some business owners decided to move their establishments elsewhere. Some moved to the a new strip mall called Independence Plaza while others set up shop along a strip of highway called Rt. 1. Once the businesses left conditions in the city deteriorated quickly. Suddenly more abandoned buildings and houses began to litter the social terrain and White folks (and affluent Blacks for that matter) took off top speed. The end result was that poorer blacks were left behind. The minority population at Trenton High began to skyrocket.
White flight continued to take place between 1980-2000. We certainly do not know why so many whites left the city. However, mathematical sociologist, Thomas Schelling, offers one possible explanation in that he argues that communities can reach a racial “tipping point”. Using statistical analyses he found that once a community becomes 20% Black White people who can afford it will often head for the hills or the sunny suburbs. Hence, it is possible that some White Trentonians moved to nearby Hamilton, Ewing or Lawrence, NJ when they realized that blacks were moving in. Some of them probably moved so they wouldn’t have to send their kids to Trenton Central High School with Black students
In sum, the out-migration of whites, the immigration of blacks, and the 1968 riots had an effect on the racial composition of Trenton, NJ. The population of the city changed, which lead to a racial transformation at Trenton Central High School. This leads me to the main thrust of my paper: I argue that once Trenton High became black the students and the building for that matter were largely forgotten. There is a myriad of data and studies that suggest that minority students get the shaft when it comes to education. There is also an ever-growing body of literature, which highlights the reasons why black students who attend racially segregated schools academically lag behind.