A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

African Americans in the Matawan Journal - 18 December 1931

Below is the fourth in my occasional series on African Americans mentioned in old editions of the Matawan Journal. Today's article, from a paper published nearly 80 years ago, shows how African Americans of our Township and Borough gathered together to fight against a proposal to segregate our local schools. They sent a strong message back to the Board of Education rejecting the construction of a separate school for their children, who were doing fine where they were.

Majority of Colored People Frown on Segregation Plan; Have No Desire For Separate School
Seventy-five of Eighty Colored People at Meeting Express Satisfaction With Present School System.

A most exciting and interesting meeting was held by the colored men and women of Matawan Township and Borough in St. James' A. M. E. Zlon Church on Wednesday evening, to consider the segregating of the colored children of the district in a school building of their own, the personnel of which would be entirely colored.

A petition has been in circulation for some time past to which many names had been secured by Richard Lyons, who has been the prime mover in the matter. In getting the signers to the petition a spirit of opposition was engendered and it was thought advisable to have the public meeting and thresh out the differences of those in favor of and against the segregating idea.

The meeting was presided over by the Rev. C C R Jones and the proposition was freely and openly discussed by the adherents of both sides, and resulted in many personalities.

The only question that those in favor of the scheme had was that it might be better for the children to have teachers of their own blood, that they might do better in their studies if guided by them. To this the opponents replied that Matawan had never had the question of segregation raised before; that there were politics in the deal; that certain men had been promised that if they helped elect this or that man to the office of school trustee, that a colored school would be constructed for them and managed by colored teachers and officials. Now, that those who had done the work required by their superiors, wanted their promises carried out by those making them, and they being either afraid or unwilling to stand up to their promises, had advised the present mode of procedure, with the assurances that they would abide by the decision of the majority of the colored fathers and mothers. The opposing element also stated that the present was no time to load further burdens of taxation on the people of the school district; that a lot, building, equipment, teachers, janitors, and other necessary expense would have to be borne by the taxpayer, and would cost probably $15,000 or $18,000 per year, which was all uncalled for, as the children were receiving an education in the public school of the township equal to their white associates and that colored graduates from the High School compared favorably with the white graduates as to points.

Those who spoke in favor of the division were A E Davis and Richard Lyons. Those who spoke in opposition were K P Lee, S C Towler, Mrs James Simmons, Myron Suydam, Sidney Butner, John Lucas, John Johnson, Mrs Martha Suydam, and the Rev R C C Jones.

At the close of the discussion the chair stated that a vote would be taken on the question "Does this assemblage favor a change in the matter of the education of the colored children of the Matawan school district?" A rising vote was taken and seventy-five were counted as against the proposition and five in favor of the change.

A motion prevailed that a committee be appointed to secure the names of those opposed to the segregation proposition, and that the petition be presented at the next meeting of the Board of Education, and that all who desire, appear before the Board and state their favor or objection to the proposition. The chairman appointed as such committee John Johnson, John Lucas, Sidney Burton, Samuel Harrison, S C Towler. This committee will meet tonight to formulate a plan of procedure, as they are just as determined to fight any change in the method of the education of their children, as those who favor the plan.

On Thursday night another meeting was called by those in favor of the change to be held at St Moriah Baptist Church, Cliffwood, where the subject was further discussed. The Rev Mr Cokeley was chosen as chairman, and after a lengthy discussion by all who cared to have anything to say, a rising vote was taken as to whether this meeting favored the separation of the children from the white school and resulted in thirty-six voting "no" and one voting "yes."

It is thought by the opposition that the question of segregation is practically dead, as those in favor number so few that should they go before the Board together with the large negative feeling that the Board of Education will dismiss the matter.

Source: Matawan Journal, 18 December 1931, front page, continued on p 6


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