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Reputation and Reality in America's Model Town: Remembering Racial Integration in Teaneck, New Jersey, 1949-1968

Rachel Mark

Title:
Reputation and Reality in America's Model Town: Remembering Racial Integration in Teaneck, New Jersey, 1949-1968
Author(s):
Mark, Rachel
Thesis Advisor(s):
Hallett, Hilary Anne
Date:
Type:
Undergraduate theses
Department:
History
Persistent URL:
Notes:
, Columbia University.
Abstract:
In 1968, Reginald Damerell published Triumph in a White Suburb, his chronicle of Teaneck, New Jersey‟s school integration. In this account based on almost two hundred interviews, Teaneck resident Damerell told of the town‟s neighborhood integration efforts dating back to the early 1950s, culminating in the triumph of 1965, when Teaneck residents became the first in the nation to vote to integrate their school system. Teaneck, at that point a town of about forty thousand, became known nationally as a champion of integration. However, a second and contrasting Teaneck narrative exists as old as this first one. In the second narrative, Teaneck was like any other town. It rejected Jews and African Americans who first moved in. Some liberal residents banded together in an attempt to advocate for open housing, but ultimately failed. The school system was integrated, but it was first instated by the Board of Education, against the will of the majority. The town eventually voted for it, but it was only due to a strong, concerted effort by the integrationists. Ultimately, the promise of a truly integrated society fell short: the same year that Triumph in a White Suburb was published, a task force was appointed to investigate racial disturbances at the central high school. Yet the narrative of triumph has persisted and become dominant. This thesis will investigate how Teaneck came to symbolize racial progress even though it was apparent from the very moment of triumph that it was just that – a moment.
Subject(s):
American history
African American studies
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Suggested Citation:
Rachel Mark, 2011, Reputation and Reality in America's Model Town: Remembering Racial Integration in Teaneck, New Jersey, 1949-1968, Columbia University Academic Commons, http://hdl.handle.net/10022/AC:P:10300.

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