“A Place Out of Time: The Bordentown School” -- PBS documentary showcases a separate, "equal" NJ school





You could listen to a lot of dry lectures by a lot of windy history professors and still not learn as much about race issues in the century after the Civil War as you do in “A Place Out of Time: The Bordentown School.”

This hourlong film by Dave Davidson, Monday on PBS, seems on the surface to be a simple documentary: the history of an all-black school in Bordentown, N.J., that existed from 1886 to 1955. But by the time the story is told, you have come to see the school as a microcosm of all the good intentions, misguided theories and veiled prejudice that have made equality so elusive for so long....

Sounds like a laudable idea: establish a residential school where black educators could find employment and black youths could learn in a safe environment, free of the harassment by white students and teachers they might encounter at an integrated school. And Bordentown established itself as a model institution that emphasized discipline and personal responsibility.

But the seemingly feel-good story is not so clear cut after all. Bordentown was for much of its history a vocational school; the formal name was the Manual Training and Industrial School for Colored Youth. And it reflected a view that was racist in its own way: Sure, it’s great to educate blacks, as long as they’re educated to be chauffeurs and laundresses....

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