Desegregation of the New York City Schools

A Story of the Silk Stocking Sisters

by Theresa J. Canada (Author)
©2018 Monographs XVI, 190 Pages


Desegregation of the New York City Schools: A Story of the Silk Stocking Sisters explores the use of young black and brown children to eliminate segregation in an urban public school to meet the challenges of equal education opportunity in the North during the mid-twentieth century. Author Theresa J. Canada, herself part of the experiment, tells the story of the desegregation of PS 6—an elite New York City public school—through the narratives of seven of the girls who desegregated the school. While all of the names within each narrative have been changed, the book follows the author as well as the stories of her elementary school classmates.
Desegregation of the New York City Schools provides a chapter explaining the history of PS 6 and this time period. There are chapters that describe the contrast between Northern and Southern school desegregation and the psychological and emotional impact these events have had throughout the lives of the girls in the narratives. The book concludes by discussing the sociopolitical issue of economic inequality and education. In a society where women still earn less than men, obtaining an education and earning a living is important for women and women of color in particular. Finally, this book addresses the dilemma of the re-segregation of public schools. Desegregation of the New York City Schools is suitable for courses in education policy, education law, and women’s and gender studies.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • Advance Praise
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Preface
  • Notes
  • Acknowledgements
  • Part I. A Private School Education in a New York City Public School
  • Chapter 1. The Silk Stocking School
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter 2. Schools Up South
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter 3. Select a Student
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Part II. The Silk Stocking Sisters
  • Chapter 4. Rise to Thrive—Evelyn
  • Chapter 5. Brains and Brave—Monique
  • Chapter 6. Black Power Princess—Imani
  • Chapter 7. Slick and Sassy—Regina
  • Chapter 8. School Secrets—Summer
  • Chapter 9. Social Solitude—Janine
  • Chapter 10. Pretty Rough and Tough—Latasha
  • Part III. Desegregated Public Schools
  • Chapter 11. Northerly Versus Southerly
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter 12. Of Heart and Mind
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter 13. Education or Bust
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter 14. Now Is the Future
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

| ix →


May 17, 2014 marked the 60th anniversary of the Brown versus Topeka Board of Education landmark court decision that affirmed that separate-but-equal facilities were unconstitutional.1 For the first 20 years post-Brown decision, the focus was on the efforts of desegregation in Southern schools. Everyone knows the story of the famous Little Rock Nine, and what these children endured.2 What this book describes are the efforts to desegregate Northern schools. It describes an example of what took place in a Northern urban school during the early period of desegregation and the lessons learned from this experience. Thus, my book, Desegregation of the New York City Schools: A Story of The Silk Stocking Sisters provides insight into the plight of desegregation within the New York City Public Schools during the early 1960s.

The Silk Stocking Sisters tells the story of the desegregation of PS 6, an elite New York City Public School, through the narratives of seven of the girls who desegregated the school. While all of the names within each narrative have been changed, this is my story as well as the stories of a few of my elementary school classmates. The perception that there were few, if any issues related to desegregating schools in the North is untrue. My experiences and those of my classmates show that we encountered the same issues as our Southern contemporaries. There are even incidences that occurred which ← ix | x → were worse than what Southern children experienced. There were examples of indifference, resentment, emotional abuse and overt prejudice. PS 6 was an extraordinary public school, and it still is. What happened to my classmates and I during the early 1960s in this school indicates what happened in the classrooms of other Northern public schools throughout the United States. Hardly a straight oral history, The Silk Stocking Sisters provides narratives along with chapters explaining the history of the period, the uniqueness of PS 6, the contrast between Northern and Southern desegregation, the psychological and emotional impact these events have had throughout our lives, and the broader educational themes they illustrate.

On May 20, 1995, PS 6 had a special celebration in honor of its centennial. I attended the celebration along with a Silk Stocking Sister classmate. After 100 years PS 6 attracted three black women to this celebration. Little has changed about PS 6. The neighborhood appears to be the same, the local shops are basically the same. Just stepping foot inside the building brought back the same emotions my classmate and I experienced as students.

How different was the Silk Stocking District from my neighborhood? It was very different. As I rode the bus from my neighborhood towards downtown, I saw visible differences. The most noticeable difference was the color and composition of the riders. Once the bus passed 110th Street on Fifth Avenue there were four or five blacks left on the bus. I now know that the women were probably nannies or housekeepers for well to do white families. Except for the other black children who attended PS 6, rarely if ever did any other black child ride this bus downtown. On a few occasions, there were one or two black girls who would enter the bus going uptown after school. These girls entered the bus on W. 110th Street on Central Park. One of the girls attended The New Lincoln School, which is now the Lincoln Correctional Facility.

When I first began riding the #3 bus downtown, Fifth Avenue was a two-way street. This meant that the street ran north and south. It was along this Avenue that I saw many famous people. The bus stops at 82nd Street and Fifth Avenue and was located directly in front of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Several other museums lined Fifth Avenue as I rode downtown including, The Museum of the City of New York, and The Guggenheim Museum. The apartment buildings below 96th Street along Fifth Avenue had doormen, who were usually white. The only black faces that I saw in this neighborhood were the nannies, housekeepers or those who worked in some capacity in the homes or businesses in the community. ← x | xi →

One block east of Fifth Avenue was Madison Avenue. This was the avenue with the strip of retail shops. Exclusive stores lined Madison Avenue as far as I could see. Even the coffee shops were exclusive spots; The Copper Lantern was an example. The stationery stores and discount stores were even exclusive. Lamstons was the neighborhood equivalent to Woolworth (a store that sold a variety of items). The first time I walked into the store, I saw items that I had never seen in the Woolworth near my home. The other obvious difference was the cost of items. The prices were more than I would expect to pay for a comparable item in my neighborhood. Yet, the parents of my fellow classmates bought items from this store all the time. This was just an example of the economic differences that existed between my neighborhood and that of PS 6.

As a child growing up in New York City, I often wondered why my parents never moved from the City. Now I am glad they stayed. As a matter of fact, as long as I have lived in New York City, I have never lived more than a mile from where I lived when I attended PS 6.


1. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Opinion; May 17, 1954 [Electronic Record]; Records of the Supreme Court of the United States; Record Group 267; National Archives. https://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=false&doc=87.

2. History.com Staff.2018. “Little Rock Nine.” History.com. A+E Networks. Accessed March 8, 2018. https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/central-high-school-integration.

| xiii →


The idea to write this book developed over 25 years ago, while the vision for this book began when I was a child. Therefore, I must thank my late parents Mildred and Thomas Canada. Without them, I would not have survived and thrived beyond the desegregation experience in the New York City Schools. I especially want to thank all of The Silk Stocking Sisters who contributed to this book. The support and encouragement of these individuals always kept me moving forward with this project.

When I first began interviews for this project, I needed to have the audio tapes transcribed (those were the days!). There was a person whom I knew from my college who happened to have a company that provided that type of service. While it has taken a long time to show my appreciation, I want to thank Mary Frances Winters for her early support of this project. The expert transcribers not only provided excellent written work, they also provided kind words after learning of the women’s experiences.

Soon after I began research for the book, I began a career in academia. As a new professor, the focus for the book was diverted to teaching graduate and undergraduate classes. Whenever I had a moment to write, I would. Many of the courses that I taught related to human development and foundations of education. One course in particular covered topics related to equal ← xiii | xiv → educational opportunity. It was in this course that I would discuss the issues of desegregation and how I was a part of that experience. I mentioned to students that I had begun writing about this experience. So, I must thank many of the students who over the years listened and learned about this experience firsthand.

Over the past 20 years, many friends have had the patience and understanding to hear me “talk” about the book that I was writing. Neither they nor I knew when I would complete this lifelong project. But what they all knew is that I would finish the book. Therefore, I want to thank these listeners for their support; Pier Rogers, Dawn Fears-Anderson, Deborah C. Long, Kim Trahan, Donna Ponton, and Lisa H. Richardson.

There is another group of colleagues that gave support and assistance in completing this book. Either they provided valuable critique of the writing, insight to the topics covered or recommendation for courses. Their advice and expertise was invaluable. Thank you to Harriet Washington, Vanessa Shannon and Velma Cobb. I want to thank Mr. David Ment for his assistance with the NYC Municipal Archives. Also, much appreciation goes to Sonja Hubbert for the excellent preparation of the final manuscript.


XVI, 190
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (August)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2018. XVI, 190 pp.

Biographical notes

Theresa J. Canada (Author)

Theresa J. Canada is Professor of Education and Educational Psychology at Western Connecticut State University. She holds baccalaureate and doctoral degrees from the University of Rochester, as well as two master’s degrees from Columbia University. Desegregation of the New York City Schools: A Story of the Silk Stocking Sisters is her first book.


Title: Desegregation of the New York City Schools
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