Wendel White: Schools for the Colored

Wendel White: Schools for the Colored

MonoVisions Black & White Photo Contest 2021

Fordham University is pleased to present Wendel White’s Schools for the Colored, a series of black-and- white photographs depicting structures—extant, transformed, demolished, or replaced—that once housed segregated schools along the northern border of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Segregated schools served as symbols of exclusion by the white community—but they also were places where black self-determination and agency were nurtured. Although desegregation was an essential first step in the still ongoing project of dismantling discriminatory ideologies and practices, it also created challenges for black students navigating new relationships with white peers and teachers and meant the loss of employment for many black teachers who weren’t hired to work in the newly integrated schools. Integration thus entailed both gains and losses, and White’s photographs occupy that ambivalent conceptual space between the triumph of desegregation and the disappearance of secure spaces where black children were encouraged to develop a life of the mind.

Over sixty years after the Supreme Court’s ruling on Brown v. Board of Education, some of these structures remain standing; others are now gone. In cases where the building no longer exists, White has inserted a silhouette of the school—or what he imagines it to be—on the site on which it sat. The environment surrounding the schools is digitally masked, recalling W.E.B. Du Bois’s “vast veil.”

Speaking to the complexity of the intersection between race, space, oppression, and agency, the remains of the schools in these images—whether vanished, crumbling, or firmly intact—are both ephemeral and concrete, factual and symbolic. Rather than simply being ghostly apparitions of our segregated past, they articulate the unresolved ideologies—neither living nor dead—that still haunt the American landscape today.

Wendel A. White has 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; and the Rochester Institute of Technology. He is currently Distinguished Professor of Art at Stockton University. He is the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in Photography, three artist fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on 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 numerous museum and corporate collections.

This exhibition was curated by Casey Ruble, Artist in Residence, Fordham University, Lincoln Center.

Wendel White
Schools for the Colored
May 23 – October 26, 2016

Lipani Gallery
Fordham University, 113 West 60th Street, Bronx, NY, United States
fordhamuniversitygalleries.com

Bruce School, Future City, Illinois

Bruce School, Future City, Illinois © Wendel White

Division Street School, New Albany, Indiana

Division Street School, New Albany, Indiana © Wendel White

Douglass Singerly School, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Douglass Singerly School, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania © Wendel White

Bellevue School for the Colored, Trenton, New Jersey

Bellevue School for the Colored, Trenton, New Jersey © Wendel White

Banneker School, Bloomington, Indiana

Banneker School, Bloomington, Indiana © Wendel White

East High School, Xenia, Ohio

East High School, Xenia, Ohio © Wendel White

Lincoln School, East St. Louis, Illinois

Lincoln School, East St. Louis, Illinois © Wendel White

Franklin Street School, Cape May, New Jersey

Franklin Street School, Cape May, New Jersey © Wendel White


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MonoVisions Black & White Photo Contest 2021