Schools for the Colored: Artists, authors and educators discuss America’s educational apartheid

Newark, New Jersey— On Saturday, September 7, 2013 from 1pm to 4pm Aljira, a Center for Contemporary will present a film screening, artist talk and panel discussion in conjunction with the exhibition, Schools for the Colored, A Portfolio of Photographs by Wendell A. White.  

White’s portfolio of colored schools on view explores the architecture and geography of America’s educational apartheid, within the landscape of southern New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. As a point of departure for his portfolio White takes a quote from The Souls of Black Folk, in which W.E.B. Du Bois describes an early school experience: “I was different from the others; or like, mayhap, in heart and life and longing, but shut out from their world by a vast veil.”

Following White’s talk is a panel discussion moderated by education advocate, Richard Cammarieri. Panelists include Dr. Clement Alexander Price, a Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor at Rutgers; Tynesha McHarris, Director of Programs and Community Engagement at Newark Education Trust ; Hakim Green, hip hop artist and activist; and Greg Tate, writer and cultural critic. This event will begin with a PBS documentary film screening of A Place out of Time, offering a preface to the discussion on historically Black institutions and their role in nurturing identity and accomplishment.

Schools for the Colored is a continuation of White’s journey through the African American landscape.   He began making photographs of historically African American school buildings during the first weeks of his Small Towns, Black Lives project more than twenty years ago. Wendel White describes “the images in Schools for the Colored place structures and sites that operated as segregated schools under the lens, depicting landscapes that were associated with the system of racially segregated schools established at the southern boundaries of the northern United States.  Schools for the Colored is the representation of the duality of racial distinction within American culture.  This area, sometimes referred to as “Up-South,” encompasses the northern “free” states that bordered the slave states.”

Schools for the Colored is the representation of the duality of racial distinction within American culture. According to the artist, the “veil” (the digital imaging technique of obscuring the landscape surrounding the schools) is a representation of DuBois’ concept, informing the visual narrative in these photographs.  Some of the images depict sites where the original structure is no longer present.  As a placeholder, White inserts silhouettes of the original building or what the artist imagines of the appearance of the original building. 

This event will also serve as the closing reception for this exhibition.

About Wendel A. White

Wendel A. White was born in Newark, New Jersey and grew up in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. He was awarded a BFA in photography from the School of Visual Arts in New York and an MFA in photography from the University of Texas at Austin. White taught photography at the School of Visual Arts, NY; The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, NY; the International Center for Photography, NY; Rochester Institute of Technology; and is currently Distinguished Professor of Art at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.

He has received numerous awards and fellowships including a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in Photography, two artist fellowships from the New Jersey State Council for the Arts, a photography grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, and a New Works Photography Fellowship from En Foco Inc. His work is represented in museum and corporate collections including: En Foco, New York, NY; Rochester Institute of Technology, NY; the Museum of Fine Art, Houston, TX; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, IL; Haverford College, PA; Johnson and Johnson, New Brunswick, NJ; Chase Manhattan Bank; the Paul R. Jones Collection of African American Art at University of Delaware; Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University, WI; and the NYPL Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, NY. In January 2003 the Noyes Museum of Art mounted a retrospective exhibition of the Small Towns, Black Lives project, including 13 years of images and an exhibition catalogue of the same title.

White has served on the board of directors for the Society for Photographic Education and was elected board chair for three years. He has served on the Kodak Educational Advisory Council and NJ Save Outdoor Sculpture. He is currently a board member of the New Jersey Black Culture and Heritage Foundation and in November of 2010, began a term as board chairman of the New Jersey Council for the Humanities.

His interest in New Media led to the creation of a web-based presentation of the Small Towns, Black Lives project that went on-line in 1995 as a web site called The Cemetery (the images are now included in Small Towns, Black Lives at His current projects include, Schools for the Colored, Manifest, and Seven Steps to Freedom (a public art commission). His work is included in various publications: Posing Beauty by Deborah Willis, Exposure Magazine, Nueva Luz, and Photo Review, among many others. Images from Village of Peace: An African American Community in Israel were published in Transition Magazine (Vol. 97), by the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University.

Public Programming      

September 6:

NJ Poet Laureate Family Reading with Gerald Stern and Amiri Baraka joined by poets Anne Marie Macari and Amina Baraka hosted by Jim Haba. 6pm – 9pm

Aljira’s Upcoming Exhibitions     

September 26 – December 21 : Temporality and Objects: Installations and Photographs by Carl E. Hazlewood and Birth of a Cypher by Terry Boddie. Two unique shows which explore the power and the beauty of the abstract.


January – April 2014: Bending the Grid.

Luis Cruz Azaceta: Dictators, Terrorism, War and Exiles 

March - September 2014: Aljiria’s 30th Anniversary Retrospective exhibition at the New Jersey State Museum, Trenton

About Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art

Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art fosters excellence in the visual arts through exhibitions and educational programs that serve as catalysts for inclusiveness and diversity, promote cross-cultural dialog, and enable us to better understand the time in which we live. Public understanding and support of the visual arts are strengthened through collaboration and community-based educational programming. Aljira seeks out the work of emerging and underrepresented artists and brings the work of more established artists to our community. Through the visual arts Aljira bridges racial, cultural and ethnic divides and enriches the lives of individuals.

Aljira’s operations and programs are made possible, in part, by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, New Jersey Cultural Trust, The Kenneth Aidekman Family Foundation, Bank of America, Brick City Development Corporation, The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Greater Newark Conservancy, Hyde and Watson Foundation, Joan Mitchell Foundation, Lambent Foundation, MCJ Amelior Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, PNC Bank, Prudential, The Prudential Foundation, PSE&G Foundation, RBH Group, Spire Group, State Farm Insurance, Telebrands, Tides Foundation, The Turrell Fund, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and many generous individual contributors.