Presenting in NYC on Harlem Prep

Dear Harlem Prep alumni and my dear friends,

I hope everyone is well! Since my last update, I have been continuing to write, write, and write some more -- sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, page by page. I have now completed a first draft of five of the nine total chapters of the Harlem Prep story, with another first draft of a chapter (Chapter 7 on Harlem Prep's community coalition) almost done, too. (To keep track, click here to visit my last update where I posted a detailed outline of all nine chapters of my dissertation/book!)

However, I wanted to check-in with a brief personal update as I've been on a slight writing hiatus: I have been preparing for two presentations about my research on Harlem Prep at AERA -- the American Educational Research Association. AERA is the largest education conference in the world, with over 17,000 attendees expected this year to talk about every facet of education in the present. (Yes, there is a lot that needs to be talked about -- and fixed!) To my delight, this year's conference is in New York City, so I will get to visit my old stomping grounds for a few days.

While I know it is short notice -- and schedules are busy -- I wanted to make sure to invite you all to these presentations:

Monday, April 16, 10:35am-12:05pm: presentation about how Harlem Prep was able to build a diverse "community coalition" of philanthropy and business with local support, crossing racial and ideological lines.


Tuesday, April 17, 8:15-9:45am: presentation about Harlem Prep teachers and their emancipatory teaching, and what teachers today can learn from Harlem Prep teachers' use of love and relevant pedagogy.

Each of these presentations will be about 10-12 minutes, and then there are other presenters who discuss their research on a related topic (i.e., teaching or history of education) during that time slot. Unfortunately, these are early times (particularly Tuesday) and the conference takes place at various hotels in Times Square -- absolute madness, I know! Still, if you are interested in attending, please reach out to me individually.

However, if you'd like to view the visual parts of the presentation that I am going to give, you can view them by clicking below. (Once you get to the presentation, give it a few minutes to load and click the ">" arrow to go to each slide.) They start off similar, and then are different. Just imagine me speaking about each of these things! :) Click below:

Harlem Prep Community Coalition Presentation [Monday]

Harlem Prep Emancipatory Teaching Presentation [Tuesday]

I can also send you the actual papers for you to read (which I am presenting on) to you, too. Just reach out individually by e-mail or phone. Alright, that's all for now! Thank you for continuing to believe in me and for all your support -- each day I get more excited to one day be able to share the Harlem Prep story with the world. We're getting there.

With love and gratitude,


An expanded outline and 50% draft done (plus sneak peak)!

Dear Harlem Prep alumni and friends,


I hope you all have had a wonderful start to 2018! Since the calendar switched, I have been hard at work, continuing to write each day about Harlem Prep -- and not a day goes by where I am not deeply grateful for the opportunity to write your extraordinary story.

Since my last post, I have made a lot of progress! Unlike the last update -- and thank you to those who reached out -- this time I have attached a real-life progress report, with a detailed outline of each chapter. And, things have definitely shifted! When I originally posted my first outline back in October, I only had planned for six or so chapters -- but now, I have nine full chapters planned. What changed, you might ask? Well, "you" did (so to speak)! There is so much to say about Harlem Prep, about the people who went there; so many stories to tell and dynamics to explore, and I just felt there was more that needed to be written about something so extraordinary and so unique (and truly timeless). For example, how could a story exist without a section about administrators and a deep analysis of how Ed Carpenter embraced multiculturalism with "unity through diversity?" Or, that there needed to be a separate chapter just exploring all the educational components of Harlem Prep: its classes, curriculum, and daily life? Plus, highlighting alumni stories and poetry should also flow through each chapter, no matter the focus. I saw Harlem Prep unfolding in three parts: its origins, its rise, and its descent, and have re-organized my dissertation in this way.

So, please click the button below to view the new outline (and please reach out with any questions or thoughts, too!). As you will see highlighted in yellow, I have completed first drafts of chapters 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 (that's a total of 223 pages so far), and I am starting on chapter 7 soon. Of course, this outline may change, such as chapters 8 and 9 might be condensed and the introduction might just fold into chapter 1, but this is my best guess as of now! Without further ado, click below:

Oh, and one last thing! Here's a sneak peak of the last page and half of Chapter 5 on Harlem Prep's students, teachers, and administrators (click to enlarge):

As always, if you have not shared your story and experiences about Harlem Prep, and would like to do so for inclusion into the dissertation/book, please reach out to me personally at or here on the website (or via Facebook or phone). I would to hear from you! (Or, if you have any documents/photos you would be willing to share.)

We are getting there -- I can't wait to share it all with you in due time.

With tons of love and endless appreciation,


P.S. Of course a few "goodies" from the archives! First, a short newsletter called The Lamp put out by Standard Oil at Harlem Prep. Second, a PDF of two letters between Ed Carpenter and Ford Foundation program officer Joshua Smith, that details budgetary information about funding academic departments. Enjoy!

A positive progress report + Happy Holiday wishes!

Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to all!

I hope each of you are well, and have been able to enjoy this time with family and friends (and for those of you in the Northeast, able to keep warm!).

A sneak peak into my work space -- post-it notes are starting to take over! Chapter Three in progress...

Since the last update in October, a lot of progress has been made on writing my dissertation -- on writing the Harlem Prep "book." Each day I wake up and write...and then write some more! Although it can sometimes be hard to stay disciplined, I continue to be inspired as I write your stories into this manuscript and explain all that is Harlem Prep, going through all my wonderful conversations (the oral history transcripts) and the hundreds of documents I have collected. I love flipping through pictures of the Prep, trying to find the proper words and sentences that can best represent the learning and personal growth occurring in these photos. Each quote, each picture, each document is snapshot of the Prep, and the challenge is to take each of these snapshots and weave them all together in a complete, accurate, and meaningful way. On a "good" day of writing, I can write four, sometimes even five or six pages. Other days when I can't seem to find the right words, I may only write a few pages. But, thankfully, the beauty -- and beautiful complexity -- of the Harlem Prep story inspires me to have mostly "good" days of writing!

As of today, I have written 131 pages into this story -- it is really coming a long! A few weeks ago, I completed the first draft of Chapter Two (I skipped my first chapter onto the history of Harlem for now), which details the founding of Harlem Prep: all about the New York Urban League and their Street Academy Program, as well as about Dr. Eugene Callender and the people who came up with the idea to start a prep school in Harlem. Each chapter begins with a quote, and this chapter starts with this one:

"The school would represent more than quality education. It would become a symbol of educational hope." --Dr. Eugene Callender, 1967

Callender was certainly right in his early hope. The rest of the chapter explains in detail the hiring and biography of Ed Carpenter -- one of my favorite sections to write -- and how Harlem Prep came together in terms of staffing and partnerships (with the nuns at Manhattanville College, for example). Finally, the last thirty-five pages of the chapter describes the inaugural year at the Harlem Armory, including the teaching that occurred, student stories (with plenty of student poetry), and the first graduation in spring of 1968.

Currently, I am working on "Chapter Three: The Rise of Harlem Prep, 1968-1971." I am about 43 pages into this chapter, and it's also coming along. The first third describes Harlem Prep in relation to other Black alternative schools emerging in the country as a result of the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power -- and I argue how Harlem Prep was different and unlike any other school. Then, the rest of the chapter is about Harlem Prep as an educational institution: what was the school's educational philosophy? How did Headmaster Carpenter employ his "unity through diversity" concept? How did the teaching happen and what did the pedagogy look like? How did the open-space work each day? What was daily student life like? Activities and clubs? For these questions and many others, I am relying primarily on my conversations with many of you -- and please feel free to reach out if you have more stories to tell or would like to make sure your story is included.

Perhaps the quote that I begin this chapter with is most fitting when I think about the wonderful challenge of writing this Harlem Prep story. It is from Dr. Joshua Smith, who worked at the Ford Foundation and would become Harlem Prep's biggest advocate, helping secure funding for Harlem Prep at its most dire times. However, when he first visited Harlem Prep, he did not know what to expect! He wrote in 1970:

"To visit this school is an emotional experience which will require considerable sorting out of stimuli over a period of time. Never having visited the institution before, I was somewhat unprepared for that which was to follow my cross the threshold. The haze of blue smoke floating toward the ceiling and the high decibel level made it unlike any other educational institution I have visited."

After 131 written pages, Harlem Prep, to me, is still unlike any other educational institution I have ever learned about or visited. I think of each of you every day, trying my best to piece together your stories of achievement, of struggle, of empowerment, and of love. I wish so very deeply that I could share each page of this book with you as it is being written, and just know that while I am out of sight, Harlem Prep is never out of my mind.

I hope you have a happy and healthy New Year, and look forward to sharing more progress with each of you in 2018. Please always feel free to reach out to me if you would like to chat more -- on here, through e-mail, or on the phone -- about my progress or to share your story, or about anything at all! Sincerely,


P.S. A few pictures that I have been enjoying. Don't forget to view the photo gallery for more.

Students looking out into Harlem from inside the Prep

A great overview pictures of students in a class

Article about Harlem Prep in the New York Times... anyone know who is leading the dance group? :)

Harlem prep "book" outline: beginning to tell this story

"These kids are going to destroy a lot of old myths about education. Their potential has been grossly underestimated. They have the ability to change the world." -Dr. Edward Carpenter, Fall 1967, upon Harlem Prep's opening

 A photo from the December 1967 press conference with the Carnegie Corporation and the NYUL to acknowledge Carnegie's $300,00 grant. Left to right: Ed Carpenter, John Mosler, Alan Pifer, Mother Ruth Dowd, Eugene Callender

A photo from the December 1967 press conference with the Carnegie Corporation and the NYUL to acknowledge Carnegie's $300,00 grant. Left to right: Ed Carpenter, John Mosler, Alan Pifer, Mother Ruth Dowd, Eugene Callender

I love that quote -- and so many others -- from "Carp," about the incredible potential of students: of each of you. Since my last update in late July, I have been hard at work (to the best of my abilities, that is!) beginning the process of telling this remarkable story of Harlem Prep... telling your remarkable story. As you all know, I have spent the past many years researching about Harlem Prep, trying to find everything I can about the school and the beautiful people who attended and made it all possible -- to really get at the essence of Harlem Prep. Finally, after researching, and researching... and then researching some more, it is time to write. Almost 600 "primary documents" (i.e., letters, memo, grants, budgets, etc.), 220 newspaper articles, and almost two dozen oral histories later, I have finally "hunkered down" in my office writing this story, sentence by sentence, page by page. (A continued thank you to each of you who have helped me in this research over the years and welcomed me into the Harlem Prep family!)

How do I document this story? How do I tell it in its entirety? How do I capture the Harlem Prep magic, in writing? The fact that it is, of course, such a special story and one that I have come to love so deeply as if it was my own, makes it all the more challenging, to say the least! Yet, I remain so humbled that I have been given the opportunity to tell it; I am beyond thankful for that every day and will put my heart and soul into every word. It's equally exciting and nerve-wracking to (finally) put "pen to paper," so to speak, and just grateful for each of you who have helped me get to this point.

In the many months ahead, I will make sure to give some updates of how the process is going and continue to share documents and pictures from my collection. Today, however, and as I've long promised, here is a very rough outline of my dissertation -- my best take at sharing the story of Harlem Prep with the world.

I look forward to comments and suggestions, as always. I may be out of sight, but I am not out of mind -- each day is another day that I am writing about Harlem Prep! (Please also free to contact me privately -- via phone or e-mail -- if you want to learn more about what I am writing on any day, and I would love to chat!)

Wishing everyone the best until we speak again.


Harlem Prep "goodies" and news!

Dear Harlem Prep family and friends,

Happy final few days of summer! I hope each of you are well -- national news notwithstanding -- and that the remaining days of August are restful. I apologize for the delay in this latest post! As I mentioned in my June update, I was moving to Los Angeles from New York City, and happy to say that I have successfully made the coast-to-coast move. However, all the logistics and changes have created in a whirlwind in my life, and again, I apologize for being so out of touch...until now!

Now that I'm settling in my new home and my mental "headspace" is clear for Harlem Prep, there are a few updates that I am excited to share:

Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 2.11.47 PM.png

1) A few more "goodies" from the archives and beyond: Before I left New York, I took one more deep dive into the archives to find whatever else might be possible regarding Harlem Prep. It's funny the way things work out, because after traveling to Texas and upstate New York and other places for documents, the last place to look was right under my nose: the Schomburg Center for Research in Research and Black Culture. Of course, I looked for material on Harlem Prep many years ago there, but, they also have a semi-organized collection on the New York Urban League. So, I went to check it out and since the NYUL founded Harlem Prep, it was a goldmine of information about the early years of the school! Below are a few samples I've uploaded to view.

  • Harlem Prep "Opens" in NYUL newsletter: click here to read/view the NYUL's announcement of Harlem Prep opening in Fall 1967, from two different issues.
  • "40 Acres and a Mule" newspaper: have you heard of this publication? This newspaper, with the aptly titled name, started in 1967, with local stories being written by students in the NYUL's "Street Academy" program, which, at the time, included Harlem Prep. While Harlem Prep broke away from the NYUL by spring 1968, several students continued to write in this publication. It's a treat to read the news of the block and of the world during this time from students' perspective (including that of Harlem Prep'ers)! Plus, there is some great coverage of the Prep's opening, too. Click here to read the first issue in November 1967 and click here to read the April 1968 issue. I actually took photos of every issue in the archives (more than a half dozen!), and when I have some extra time, I will work on putting them altogether and sharing more.
  • Photos courtesy of Casey Carpenter, Ed and Ann Carpenter's daughter: also before I left New York, Casey was kind enough to meet with me, and we were able to dig up tons of pictures of Harlem Prep. We do not know exactly when they were taken, but based on a few clues, approximately 1977 and 1978 (post-independent status). Many of them are of graduation, and click here to view them.

2) News and notes in the Harlem Prep universe: there are always things going on!

  • Reunion update: as many of you know, Harlem Prep alumni (and myself) decided to post-pone the 50th anniversary celebration until spring 2018 to give us all more time to plan and raise funds. Sometime next spring, we are, at the bare minimum, going to plan an educational conference on Harlem Prep at Teachers College, Columbia University. This event will include a panel of alumni discussing their experiences and conversation about how Harlem Prep can inform educators and administrators in the present. Please do reach out to us if you are able to participate in this effort!
  • New book releases from the Harlem Prep family: Dr. Hussein Ahdieh, a teacher and assistant headmaster at Harlem Prep, released a new book a few months ago that I wanted to pass along. It is a fascinating juxtaposition of the women's rights movement in Iran and America. Click here for more information. In addition, Harlem Prep alumnus ('67) Alberto Cappas just released an original book of quotes. I know that I've enjoyed reading them, so feel free to click here for more information about this book as well. (Alberto also was one of the frequent writers in 40 Acres and a Mule.)
  • My chapter on Harlem Prep teachers to be part of a published volume: I am excited to share that a chapter about Harlem Prep teachers will be part of a edited collection about teacher resistance to be published sometime by Routledge Press in 2018. This collection of essays by historians will feature stories of teachers, historically, who inspired students and resisted against the status quo. Sounds like Harlem Prep, right?! The goal of this book is to likewise inspire and inform teachers today, learning from the past. I currently have a rough draft chapter written, and if you would like to read it, please reach out to me personally at 

Alright, that's it for now! I am back at it -- so to speak -- and so do expect another update in September. As promised before, I intend to provide a rough sketch outline of my Harlem Prep dissertation/book that I will be working on for the next two years. And, of course, please contact me or comment below if you have any questions or concerns! Thank you for letting me continue on this journey and allowing me to tell your beautiful story.