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Schools for the Colored is an extension of the ideas that formed the project Small Towns, Black Lives, in that it is a continuation of my journey through the African American landscape. I began making photographs of historically African American school buildings during the very first weeks of the Small Towns, Black Lives project more than seventeen years ago. In Schools for the Colored I began to pay attention to the many structures and sites that operated as segregated schools (making photographs of places where segregated schools once stood).
The project is a survey of the places that were connected to the historic system of racially segregated schools (broadly defined as “Jim Crow” segregation, in its various forms of de jure or de facto segregation) established at the southern boundaries of the northern United States. My particular interest is in the regions of the northern “free” states that bordered the slave states (sometimes known as the “Up-South,” just over the line to freedom) as regions of unique concentrations of black settlements during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Schools for the Colored is the representation of my effort to memorialize these sites. The architecture and geography of American apartheid (Jim Crow), in the form of a system of “colored schools” within the landscape of southern New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois is the central concern of this project.
– Wendel A. White (www.wendelwhite.com)