Slavery (early 1600s-1865)
- Enslaved people were not allowed to receive an education, read or write in NJ.
Formal School Segregation (1800s-1947)
- When Black people were allowed to attend schools in substantial numbers following the end of chattel slavery, schools were segregated and funding for them fell to communities and families in the form of education fees and tuition.
- In 1871, Educational Fees were forbidden, making NJ the last state to give free public education - even later than the reconstructed southern states.
- In 1881 NJ made a progressive move and enacted a statute that prohibited segregation in schools based on race, but this legislation was neither monitored nor enforced since schools in south NJ continued to be formally segregated until the 1950s.
- In 1947 NJ adopted a new constitution which prohibited formal segregation in public schools. NJ is the only state with such a provision.
- Some schools remained segregated after this until lawmakers threatened to withhold funds from schools that refused to integrate.
Bordentown School to Hayes Prison (1886-Present)
- The Bordentown School opened in 1886 as a school for Black students during NJ’s segregation era; it was known for preparing Black students with an elite education that would lead them to career paths such as law, medicine, education and skilled trades.
- As a result of the 1947 Constitution, the Bordentown School was forced to integrate white students. In 1955 the school was closed, with the state arguing that it perpetuated racial segregation.
- After it was closed, it became NJ’s only girl’s youth detention center - Hayes Juvenile Female Secure Care and Intake Facility.
- It is still open today, despite efforts from activists and a proclamation by former Governor Chris Christie to close it in 2018.
- The Bordentown School which was once a prestigious school for Black students became the embodiment of the school-to-prison pipeline
De-facto School Segregation (1947-Present)
- Despite nearly 75 years passing since segregation was formally prohibited, many schools throughout the state are still segregated.
- Civil rights groups and students are currently suing the state saying that NJ’s schools are still deeply segregated, with nearly half of the state’s 585,000 Black and Latino students attending schools that are more than 90 percent non-white
Systemic Underfunding of Predominantly Black and Brown Schools (1947-Present)
- Inequitable education for Black and brown students throughout the state persists through systemic underfunding; in 2020, predominantly nonwhite schools in NJ received 18% less funding than predominantly white schools.