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:

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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 bmg2136@tc.columbia.edu. 

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.


Movies, yearbooks, and a progress report!

Hi everyone,

I hope this recent find each of you well, and for those here on the East Coast, staying "cool" in this early summer heat wave! Since my last update, I've been continuing to collect and research any final remnants of Harlem Prep materials that I have not yet found -- and I have a few goodies to share! While I will always be very interested in speaking with more alumni and finding new materials, I am on the tail-end of of the "research phase" (i.e., finding as much information about Harlem Prep as possible!) and moving toward my "writing phase" soon. (I'll talk about this briefly later on.) So, without further ado:

1) Harlem Prep student made films: I have great follow-up news from the last update! After a detective-like hunt that started with an old Amsterdam News article from 1972 and ending with multiple conversations with an old film archival specialist at the New York Public Library for Performing Arts, I tracked down the short film that was created by Ilanga Witt, a 1971 Harlem Prep graduate. (I am not in contact with this alumnus, so please do reach out if you have any information about his whereabouts or life updates.) This film, entitled "Four Women," was an interpretative live footage dance by Harlem Prep students to one of Nina Simone's iconic songs.


After making an appointment to view the film, former Harlem Prep English teacher, George "Sandy" Campbell, as well as Ed Carpenter's daughter Karen "Casey" Carpenter joined me. We had to use an old Steenbeck machine (picture on left) which plays 16mm films, and it was quite the adventure! Since it's a bit of a hassle to view the by appointment only, I did my best to record it (despite the low quality of the original 16mm) and share it. Click here to view the film.

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2) Dr. Henry Pruitt and the 1970 Harlem Prep Yearbook: Yes, you read that right! I have a copy -- unfortunately, a poorly-copied "copy" -- of the 1970 Harlem Prep yearbook. (Previously, I had not come across any information that yearbooks even existed. Do you remember having yearbooks when you attended? I would be curious to know!) Anyway, a few months ago, Peter Hopson, Class of '71, was able to get in contact with Dr. Henry Pruitt, who served as an administrator from 1971 to 1972 and worked with Ed and Ann Carpenter. (Thank you again Peter for this!) Sandy Campbell joined us, and we met Dr. Pruitt in Teaneck, NJ, where he is still active, and we spoke with him for almost an hour about his memories of Harlem Prep. It was a great conversation and his insight as an administrator will go a long way in my book project.

However, even more excitingly, Dr. Pruitt brought each of us a copy of a 1970 Harlem Prep yearbook. How cool, right?! Again, although the quality is not the greatest, I've uploaded what Dr. Pruitt gave me for everyone to view. Click here to view the yearbook. Enjoy!

3) Other musings on the research front: In addition, I've been fortunate to continue speaking with various alumni (thank you so, so much for those who have spoken with me!) and recording oral histories. Second, Casey Carpenter, Ed and Ann Carpenter's daughter, has been kindly digging through her attic to find any old pictures or files left from her parents -- and there have been some great successes! We found a bunch of pictures of Harlem Prep from the late 1970s, and at another time, I'll try to see if I can put those online for you all to view, too. Finally, I am going to spend the entire day (6/16) at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, as they have old files from the New York Urban League. If you can recall, the NYUL helped found Harlem Prep in 1967 (click here and here for some early Prep/NYUL documents), and these files -- and more information about the NYUL as an organization and their leaders -- will go along way in helping to better understand Harlem Prep's creation. As always, I'll let you know what I find!

4) Personal update and trajectory: As a few of you might know, at the end of this month (June 28), I will be leaving New York permanently -- after six years in NYC, I am moving to Los Angeles to be closer to my family. However, I will still be visiting NYC fairly often next year (including for the reunion!), of course. This coincides with the trajectory of the Harlem Prep project: as mentioned before, starting this summer, I will be working on writing my dissertation (basically this book-length thesis) on Harlem Prep close to full-time next year. Although I have written blogs and articles, and given presentations, I am excited to officially start writing the Harlem Prep story in its entirety!

That's all for now, and thank you to everyone who has been so kind and supportive in this process. For the next update, I definitely plan to provide some outlines of the book, so stay tuned in the weeks and months to come! As always, please feel free to comment or reach out with any questions or thoughts.



The First "Update": Starting a trend and sharing my progress

Hello Harlem Prep alumni and friends,

I hope you all are well! A quick note before I get started: I want to thank each of you who have helped me with this project so far. I am extremely grateful for your kindness and patience in doing so, and for not only taking the time out of your busy lives to speak/write/contact me, but most of all, for entrusting me with your stories of Harlem Prep. I remain deeply humbled by it all.

Thank you for visiting this website and -- finally! -- as promised, I would like to begin providing semi-frequent updates about the progress of this project. These posts will consist of a few things: notes or snippets about what I am writing about or working on, new "discoveries" of photos or documents I have found, or just the sharing of a fascinating document from my collection that you might find interesting. (Also note that when I include links to documents, they will be underlined and in blue, so make sure to click them!)

So, without further ado, here we go! In terms of my writing progress, I am still focusing on finding everything I can about Harlem Prep, particularly speaking with alumni. (Please contact me if you would be willing to share your experiences about Harlem Prep.) I've "collected" and analyzed over 700 documents -- that's a lot, I know! -- pertaining to Harlem Prep, and by the end of this month, going to finish sketching out a chapter-by-chapter outline of what the dissertation/book on Harlem Prep will entail. Perhaps in my next update, I'll be able to share this outline. I'll also go over where I've collected these 700+ documents, too, and talk more about my research process, etc.

In the meantime, however, I want to share a bunch of exciting things I am working on now for this current update:

1) Student records at Park East High School: In 1981, Harlem Prep merged with Park East High School in East Harlem, and I found that most of Harlem Prep's student records are still there in an old basement storage space. I am in touch with some of their staff, who said that I would be able to search for student records. How exciting, right? However, I am unable to access them without your permission, so if you are interested in obtaining copies of your records, please contact me ASAP via e-mail at b.goldenberg@columbia.edu, and I will look for yours and send them to you if I find them. (For those who have already contacted me, I will be reaching out to you shortly about next steps.)

2) New, amazing pictures of Harlem Prep!: After doing some digging -- and shout out to Peter Hopson (Class of '71) for the tip about Al Burley, the photographer for the Amsterdam News -- I found 27 photos of Ed Carpenter and Harlem Prep students at Cornell University, hidden away in an archive. As of last week, I now have copies of them in beautiful, high quality color, and you can view/download them here yourself. There are some really amazing photographs, so please enjoy! (When you click the link, they may take some time to load. To download them, once the page loads, click the three BLACK DOTS in the top right hand corner of the screen, and then click DOWNLOAD.)

3) "Four Women" film, created in 1971 by Harlem Prep student: After some more detective-like work via the discovery of an old newspaper article, I have found that the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts has a 16mm reel of this film. This film, entitled "Four Women," is a 7 minute film of live footage of Prep dancers interpreting Nina Simone's song about Black women, filmed and produced by Harlem Prep student Ilanga Witt. I have made an appointment to view this film on Friday, and will report back! I hope to make a copy somehow, if possible, and if I can, I will certainly share it.

I have much, much more I can share, but I'll leave it here for now! This is just the start, and encourage you to post comments, share this page, or contact me for any thoughts/questions that you might have. (Please sign up at uncoverharlemprep.com if you have not done so and would like to receive these updates via e-mail.) Thanks again for reading and be in touch!