Basketball, Books, and Brotherhood: Dewitt Clinton High School as Scholastic Model of Postwar Racial Progression and African American Leadership


  • Arthur Banton Tennessee Technological University


basketball, high school, integration, African American, New York City


In 1950, the City College of New York (CCNY) became the first racially-integrated team to win the national championship of college basketball. Three of the players on that team attended DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, New York. At the time Clinton high school was one of the most academically-rigorous public schools in the city and the United States. During this postwar period Clinton annually sent nearly a third of its graduates to college, this at a time when the national average of high school completion stood at twenty percent. The unofficial school motto etched in yearbooks and the student paper was “college or bust.” Needless to say, DeWitt Clinton strongly encouraged its student body to attend college and for those who did not, they were pushed to excel beyond the limits of their chosen professions. This intellectually competitive academic environment was integrated and more than twenty-percent black. Like their contemporaries, black students were encouraged to pursue opportunities that seemed unthinkable in an era of racial stratification. As a result, Clinton produced a number of black students armed with the skills to navigate the terrain of prejudice and circumvent a number of social barriers. DeWitt Clinton high school was a model for interracial brotherhood while also fostering black leadership. Like Jackie Robinson, whom integrated Major League Baseball in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers, the three black athletes who competed on the CCNY team were prepared for the transition of competing on a racially integrated college team, can be partially attributed to their secondary schooling at DeWitt Clinton. This article examines the racial climate of DeWitt Clinton during the postwar years when the three young men were in attendance and how it fostered a culture of Basketball, Books, and Brotherhood.


Aery, W. A. (1915). Titustown: A community of Negro homes. The Press of the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute.

Allison, M. G. (1921). The Horizon. The Crisis: A Record of the Darker Races, 23(1). 53-120.

Andrews, W. (2001). The concise Oxford companion to African American literature. Oxford.

Arenson, K. (July 2, 1999). City college president forced out by board of trustees under Badillo. New York Times.

Bracks, L. L. (2014). The complete encyclopedia of African American history: 400 years of achievement. African American Publications.

Buder, L. (1972, March 7). Attendance zone altered in 8 Bronx high schools. New York Times.

Clinton News. (1947, October 3). Clinton fights discrimination: First school to begin parade of petitions to state capital.

Clinton News. (1947, December 19). A Clinton disgrace.

Clinton News. (1940, March 8). Editor attacks race bigotry.

Daniels, R. (2002). Coming to America (2nd ed.). Harper Collins.

Dyreson, M. (2001). American ideas about race and Olympic races from the 1890s to the 1950s: Shattering myths or reinforcing scientific racism? Journal of Sport History, 28(2), 173-215.

Edmonson, J. (2007). Jesse Owens: A biography. Greenwood Press.

Hellerman, I. (1937, June). Red, white, black. The Magpie, 21(2), 72.

Hine, T. (1999). The rise and fall of the American teenager. Bard Press.

Hoffer, H. (1944, January 7). Purchase of medium Bomber and Jeep becomes a reality as Clinton easily surpasses both quotas. Clinton News.

Hofmann, P. (1966, April 4). Rising Hispanic migration heightens city tensions. New York Times.

Ivy League Sports. (2015, March 31). Black history timeline for Columbia history. Ivy League Sports.

Jacobs, R. (1945, November 1). Howard University offers scholarships. Clinton News.

Jet. (1972, March 23). Black accounting group honors five at meeting.

Jet. (1973, June 7). Prominent Black architect dies in New York City.

Lemming, D. (1994). James Baldwin: A biography. Knopf.

Maeroff, G. (1972, May 17). Clinton High, at 75 maintains its tradition. New York Times.

Martin, D., & Lowery, R. (2001, July 27). First Black fire commissioner dies at 85. New York Times.

New York State Legislature. Chap. 492. Laws of the State of New York, 123rd Session, Volume II. Albany, New York: New York State. 1900.

New York Times. (1960, October 1). 500 youths in riot after Bronx game.

New York Times. (1963, October 17). William A. Aery, educator was 81.

Pelisson, G. J. (2009). The castle on the parkway: The story of New York City’s DeWitt Clinton High School and its extraordinary influence on American life. Hutch Press.

Pelisson, G. J. (2015). Notable alumni. DeWitt Clinton Alumni Association.

Phillips, F. (1947, October 24). Hollywood vs. hate. Clinton News.

Ravitch, D. (1974). The great school wars: New York City, 1805-1973: A history of the public schools as battlefield of social change. Basic Books.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. (n.d.). Shelton Hale Bishop Collection 1945-1957. New York Public Library.

Shepard, L. (1940, April 12). Senior play dramatizes rowdyism. Clinton News.

Smolen, H. I. (1948, May 14). Clinton responds to UN children drive. Clinton News.

Terte, R. H. (1963, November 28). Stuyvesant no. 1 in alumni Ph.D.’s. New York Times.

Titunik, T. (1945, November 21). Mermen outswim Washington: Capture the Bronx-Manhattan title. The Clinton News.

Viejo, N. L. (1945, January 12). Hoopsters trounce Evander at first basketball dance. Clinton News.

Weingart, S. (1948, May 14). DWC halls climax tour of New York by out-of-towners. Clinton News.






Peer Review Articles