Black Gotham Stories

Order and Government

African Free School, No. 2

Mulberry Street School

The school trustees wanted to maintain law and order among New York’s black population by instilling habits of mind and behavior that would prevent any outbreak of social disorder. Their attitudes were typical of the city’s white philanthropists who, in supervising charitable institutions for impoverished New Yorkers of varied races, religions, and ethnicities, insisted that these subordinate groups needed to be governed by their betters.

Black community leaders agreed that self-regulation and proper behavior in public were of paramount importance. But there were two issues on which they would not compromise: a decent education that would give their children opportunities not available to the older generation, and the right of free blacks to control their own destiny.