The Bordentown School as Institution and Idea: The Manual Training and Industrial School Honored Educational Priorities of Washington, Du Bois, and Dewey


  • Connie Goddard



Given its various accomplishments and distinctions, the Manual Training and Industrial School for Colored Youth in Bordentown, New Jersey (which existed from 1886-1955), is surprisingly little known in the state or among historians of education. A state-supported boarding school for boys and girls, it combined a solid academic program with practical work experience through a highly structured school day and a dedicated faculty that also lived on campus. Its mission was to direct students, many from unstable backgrounds, into stable jobs or further education. Though frequently called “Tuskegee of the North,” the school as led by long-time principal William R. Valentine was arguably influenced as much by John Dewey, who in a 1915 book about progressive education had praised another school Valentine headed earlier. As a meeting place for black cultural leaders in the state from the 1920s through the 1940s, the school also exposed its students to avenues through life that could enable them to become leaders themselves. Thus, the school can be viewed as manifesting the priorities articulated by Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois, as well as by Dewey.