Harlem Prep

Step by Step ~ A Retrospective ~ 1967–1975

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A Way Out of No Way:
Harlem Prep: Transforming Dropouts into Scholars, 1967–1977

By Hussein Ahdieh &
Hillary Chapman

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Harlem Preperatory School: An Alternative by Hussein Ahdieh (Dissertation, PDF, 7.4 MB)


Early on, the Urban League and Manhattanville College helped to launch the school. There was no tuition. Funding came chiefly from institutions such as Standard Oil of New Jersey, the Sheila Mosler Fund, the Carnegie Corporation, the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation, the Hayden Foundation, the Arwood Foundation, the Roethbert Foundation, the New York Foundation, Coca-Cola, IBM, Chase Manhattan Bank, Union Carbide, Herman Miller Furniture, Feigen Gallery, Franklin Fund, TIME, Consolidated Edison, Metropolitan Life, and the Ford Foundation – to name just a few.

Prominent individuals from many fields, such as Edward F. Carpenter (Headmaster); Whitney M. Young (National Urban League); Mother Ruth Dowd (Manhattanville College); Dr. Eugene S. Callender; Honourable Robert J. Mangum; Dr. Kenneth B. Clark; Stephen J. Wright; Dr. John Cave; Dizzy Gillespie; Bill Cosby; Sammy Davis, Jr.; Ozzy Davis, James Taylor, William F. Buckley, Jr.; Senator Jacob K. Javits; Minister Louis Farrakhan; Percy Sutton; Ann Carpenter; E. Solomon McFarlane; and others, lent their support in so many ways.

The school was covered in major newspapers and magazines such as the New York Time and TIME Magazine, and written about by Jonathan Kozol, Dwight W. Allen, and other education authors in journals and books, and visited by educators from Israel, China, Norway, and many other countries. It still serves as an iconic example of one way to bring about a bright future for individuals who need that extra chance.

Dizzy Gillespie, A Special Friend
Renowned jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie was a close friend of Harlem Prep, He visited several times and helped raise funds to support the school.

Jazz musician and Baha'i Dizzy Gillespie is shown with Hand of the Cause Enoch Olinga, Hussein Ahdieh, Katherine McLaughlin, and Ed and Anne Carpenter at the famous Baron club in Harlem, Oct.1970.

Duane Jones: Celebrity Teacher
The head of Harlem Prep's English department, Duane Jones, made movie history as the first African-American actor to appear in a main role in a horror film. He played Ben in Night of the Living Dead, released in 1968. Mr. Jones had a fruitful career as a teacher of English and literature, an actor, and a theatrical director.

Duane Jones as Ben in Night of the Living Dead

In addition to Harlem Prep, Mr. Jones' teaching credits include Antioch College, where he headed the literature department, as well as the Peace Corps, where he developed English language training programs. He was also a Phelps-Stokes exchange scholar in West Africa.

His acting work included the Negro Ensemble Company, the Actors Playhouse and the National Black Theater as well as movies and TV. For several years, he served as executive director of the Black Theater Alliance. Mr. Jones was director of the Maguire Theater at the State University College at Old Westbury and artistic director at the Richard Allen Center for Culture and Art in Manhattan. As a theatrical director, he staged numerous productions, including: Vy Higgensen's Mama, I Want to Sing (a gospel musical), The Estate by Ray Aranha, God's Trombones by James Weldon Johnson and Black Picture Show by Bill Gunn. He also directed The Medium and Sojourner for Opera Ebony.

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