An Overview of Harlem Prep

Harlem Prep was founded in 1967, originally as an extension of the "street academies" program of the New York Urban League. The need for Harlem Prep was clear: with no high schools in Central Harlem, and a high dropout rate of students, Harlem Prep sought to enroll the large population of students who had left the public high school system, for various reasons. After spending its inaugural year at the Harlem Armory, Harlem Prep moved to its permanent location on 136th and 8th Avenue, in a re-purposed supermarket. Led by Headmaster Edward Carpenter and a diverse set of faculty, over the next seven years as an independently run and financed school with support from the philanthropic and corporate sector, as well as the local community, Harlem Prep would graduate and send to college many hundreds of students. With a motto of "strength through diversity," Harlem Prep was a powerful example of the potential of educational triumph. After struggling to stay afloat financially, Harlem Prep had no choice but to join the New York City Board of Education in February 1974, existing as part of the public school system as an alternative school until the early 1980s.

Below are sources of more information about Harlem Prep:

Step by Step: The Story of Harlem Prep [Film]

This 22-minute documentary on Harlem Prep was created by Standard Oil of New Jersey (later Exxon), in the early 1970s, and describes the school with footage and personal commentary from students and staff, and narrated by Headmaster Edward Carpenter. Although not much else is known about this documentary -- who filmed it, its exact date, how it became available, etc. -- it is perhaps the best remaining footage of Harlem Prep from the time period.

The documentary was recently placed online by Dr. Hussein Ahdieh, and can be viewed publicly to the left or on YouTube.

Other "Promotional" Materials of the 1970s:

The Recent Research and Work of Dr. Hussein Ahdieh

Dr. Hussein Ahdieh, a former Harlem Prep teacher and administrator who served closely with Headmaster Edward Carpenter, has recently worked to share Harlem Prep's story to a wider audience. Besides local outreach at the Bahai'i Center in New York City and presentations at national conferences such as the Race Amity Conference in Boston, Dr. Ahdieh created a website about Harlem Prep. Click here to visit and also has organized a Facebook group.

Most prominently, Dr. Ahdieh (with Hillary Chapman) wrote a book about Harlem Prep's history, entitled A Way Out of No Way: Transforming Dropouts Into Scholars, 1967-1977. It's a wonderful book! Click here to learn more about the book or to purchase it on

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My (Barry Goldenberg's) Scholarship on Harlem Prep

Along with my dissertation research for my degree, and working on this Project, I also am always continuing working on articles and other work on Harlem Prep, which I always want to make sure to share when possible.

In July of 2016, I wrote a short blog for the Gotham Center (a blog on New York City history) about Harlem Prep and how it saw itself as a "community school." This article focuses on how Harlem Prep was both supported by the local community and the elites of society. Click here to read this blog.

In November of 2015, I also presented in St. Louis, MO about Harlem Prep's "community school" status. Click here to view my presentation on a platform called Prezi.