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Sat, 10.30.1858

The Witherspoon School for the Colored Opens

Class of 1908

*The Witherspoon School for the Colored is celebrated on this date in 1858.  This was a school for Blacks that operated before the American Civil War.

Located in Princeton, New Jersey it first opened its doors on a building located on the corner of Maclean and Witherspoon Streets. One of the teachers was Betsey Stockton. She was a slave owned by the Stockton family. Before the Witherspoon School being opened, she taught students in a house or a church as early as 1848. In the early 1900s, Paul Robeson attended the school for three years. 

Soon after the school opened, Princeton Township made an arrangement to send their Colored children, too. On February 20, 1908, a new site was purchased on Quarry Street, and the building on the corner of Maclean and Witherspoon Streets was abandoned. While it operated as a school for the Colored, the Quarry Street building was still known as the Witherspoon School. The school paper was called the "Witherspoon Herald." The building was reconstructed in 1938 as the least expensive solution to fixing an overcrowded, run-down school as opposed to desegregating the schools which would have required more expensive renovations.

While the building was being renovated, students attended classes in the Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church and the Elks Lodge (now the Masonic Lodge on the corner of John and Maclean Streets). The building was rededicated on December 7th, 1939. Its Principal from 1936 to 1948 was Howard B. Waxwood, Jr. He later became the John Witherspoon School Principal between 1948-1968. In 1947, the State of New Jersey determined that school segregation was unconstitutional. The desegregation plan known as the Princeton Plan called for the Nassau Street School to house kindergarten through grade five. The Witherspoon School served grades six through eight. Most of the information above was obtained from the 1996 Witherspoon school reunion booklet.

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