Theses Bachelor's

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

Mark, Rachel

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.

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Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Hallett, Hilary Anne
B.A., Columbia University
Published Here
May 6, 2011