Black Gotham Stories

The Laurens Street School

Note regarding Philip White's payment for lighting school fires

Philip White

Charles Reason

In 1833, the Manumission Society ceded control of the African Free Schools to the newly established Public School Society (the predecessor of the Board of Education), arguing that this transfer would result in “greater efficiency, economy, and uniformity of instruction and probably a more general interest in the welfare and melioration of the children.” Instead, much to the dismay of black parents, the schools deteriorated. The Public School Society demoted all the colored schools except one to the level of primary schools and decided to discontinue the use of spelling books; black teachers were dismissed or consistently paid less than their white counterparts.

Younger than Peter Guignon and his cohort, Philip White undoubtedly attended one of the low ranked primary schools before entering Colored School no. 2 in 1836. Located in a brand new two story building on Laurens Street, the school was run by black teachers; the boys’ principal teacher was Peter's former classmate, Charles Reason.