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Historical Overview of the Associations Supporting Black Independent Schools in NYC Since the 18th Century
Gail Foster, Ed.D.
African Americans in New York, and especially Brooklyn, have been actively engaged in founding and organizing educational institutions to serve African American children for decades and even centuries.
The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts
The Society was founded in 1704. It was later known as: Dr. Bray’s Associates.
The Phoenix Society
Tired of schools run by charitable organizations with all white boards, The Phoenix Society was founded in 1833 to establish Black independent schools. It had a board membership in which five out of six of the board members were Black. The Phoenix Society established several elementary schools and attempted to provide a high school.
The Society for the Promotion of Education Among Colored Children
Founded in 1846. Now that public schools were assuming the role of providing education for all children, there emerged thinking that private schools and private school charitable organizations were no longer need by Blacks. As white controlled charitable organizations began turning their private schools over to the public school system, African Americans reacted by founding another charitable society: The Society for the Promotion of Education Among Colored Children. It required that all of its board members be Black, although its membership was integrated. Like the Phoenix Society it attempted to establish a high school for Blacks. While the Society received no public funds for its high school, it did for its elementary school. Over the five years of its existence, it won the respect of Black parents, the NYC Board of Education and the Public School Society.The achievement of this level of widespread respect was a considerable attainment for Blacks during the mid-nineteenth century. The African-founded society was issued a charter which allowed it to operate elementary schools under the Board of Education’s supervision. It could charge tuition, but was required to allow children unable to pay to attend for free.
The Brooklyn Family Schools
In 1972 the Brooklyn Family Schools was established. These schools had a common heritage and common goals, which grew out of the efforts of the African American Teachers Association’s initiative for community control of public schools. Included among the New York member schools were the Lizzie Goodman Memorial School and the Harambee Sasa School in Queens; the Modefi Academy, the Hgnahan School, the Robert Conners School, the Shule Ya Mapinduzi School, the Al Karim School, the Zidi Kuwa School, the Uhum Sasa School, and the Weusi Shule—all in Brooklyn.
The Council of Independent Black Institutions (CIBI) (a national outgrowth of the Brooklyn Family Schools) was founded in 1972 to unify a far flung, rapidly developing movement of Pan-Afrikanist oriented independent schools in the United States. CIBI’s founding represented the implementation of ideas from a different ideological stream than that which guided integrationist strategies that swept Afrikan communities during the period leading up to and following the United States Supreme Court’s Brown decision. —CIBI Website.
The Toussaint Institute Fund ís founded in 1988 by Dr. Gail Foster in New York. Its original mission was to raise money to establish an independent school and to operate a scholarship program that would highlight the need for Black independent schools. The scholarship program targeted boys who were doing poorly in public schools and placed them in Black independent schools where they experienced success. The scholarship program operated from 1988 to 2000. Within a few years of its founding, the organization put aside its vision for establishing an independent school and instead became the primary advocate and publicist for Black independent schools in New York. It collaborated with the Institute for Independent Education to document schools nationwide. In 2002 it attempted, unsuccessfully, to win state approval to establish a charter school for boys modeled on Black independent schools. The Toussaint Institute Fund closed its doors in 2002 and passed the mantle for advocating for Black independent schools in New York to two organizations founded by Dr. Foster, the Association of Black Independent Schools of NY and the Black Alliance for Educational Options of New York.
The first Association of Historically Black Independent Schools (Association of HBIS) was established at a planning meeting on April 21, 1991, held at St. Mark's Lutheran School. The consensus was to “create a formal organization of NYC Black-owned schools.” Its ambitious purposes were “to market and advertise on, a collective basis; to lobby government and business leaders to support the interests of our schools, particularly in the area of private school vouchers; to maximize our buying power by purchasing collectively; to network to share successful fundraising and instructional and school management ideas; and to work to support the development of a national as well as local fundraising body.” The association remained active and engaged for five years, meeting with New York State members of the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington DC in 1992, holding meetings, and keeping records of its activities. Its member institutions were Johnson Prep School, Mrs. Black’s School, Ebenezer Prep School, Bibleway Learning Center, Pilgrim Christian School, Toussaint Institute Fund, St. Paul’s Community Christian School, Cush Campus School, Unique Christian Academy, St. Marks Lutheran School, New Covenant Christian School and Christ Crusader Academy. Ora Razaq of Cush Campus and Gail Foster of the Toussaint Institute Fund served as its co- chairs.
The Toussaint Institute for Historically Black Independent Schools
The first planning meeting of the Toussaint Institute for Historically Black Independent Schools (TIHBIS) is held in December 1993 at Junior’s Restaurant in Brooklyn. Present were Johnson Prep, St. Peter Claver, New Covenant Christian School, Bethel Christian Learning Center, and Cush Campus. In April 1994, TIHBIS is formally announced to the public. Modeling itself on NAIS, it establishes standards for membership, membership dues, and a membership application process that requires a school review by an Advisory Board. Members are the Christ Crusader Academy, the Modern School, Central Harlem Montessori School, Muhammad University of Islam, Cambria Center, Ebenezer Prep School, the Learning Tree Multicultural School, St. Paul Community Christian School, and Fellowship Academy. Through TIHBIS, Dr. Gail Foster represents the schools at the New York State Office of Non-Public Schools and at the Council on American Private Education in Washington, DC, and is a voice for the schools on the board of the Black Alliance for Educational Options.
(Second) Association of Historically Black Independent Schools
The first organizing Meeting for a new association of schools is called by Gail Foster on March 20, 2000, and held at the St. Paul's Community Christian School (founded by Johnny Rae Youngblood). Foster invites the Director of the New York State Office of Non-Public Schools (Hogan) and the Chair of the Commissioners Advisory Council (Schloss) to help persuade schools as to the importance of establishing organized representation at the state level. Over 15 schools send representatives. She recommends Rita McCormick to the group as her replacement. The first planning meeting for the new organization is called by Rita McCormick in April 2001. Nine schools are represented. Collectively the schools develop a name, mission statement, and membership criteria for the new organization. The organization is called the Association for Historically Biack independent Schoois (AHBIS). Rita McCormick is elected its first President.