Colored School No. 4, Chelsea, NY

AARN is working to designate Colored School No. 4 as an Individual Landmark.

The school is a critical reminder of the City’s segregationist education policy and history, which is not yet widely discussed or well- understood. It is vital to preserve this last remaining “colored” school in Manhattan to commemorate African Americans’ heritage in the City.

By the late 1870s, a movement to disestablish colored schools prompted demonstrative public appeals from black citizens—including Frederick Douglass—which influenced then New York State Governor Grover Cleveland to sign a Legislative act on May 5, 1884, that spared two separate race-based schools from closure: of those two, Colored School No. 4 was thereafter designated as Grammar Schools No. 81. Despite the new name, it remained a “colored” school into the 1890s until it’s disuse. The Board of Education gave up the building circa 1894.

“Colored” schools were the cultural centers of New York’s African American communities in those times. There was a concentration of working-class African American families in Chelsea during the post-Civil War Reconstruction era. This school became a pillar to the immediate community. It also was integral to an informal network of other African American schools, churches, enterprises, missions and societies that anchored the growing Black enclaves of lower Manhattan.