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