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Youth Historians in Harlem

Youth Historians in Harlem (YHH) engages students at Frederick Douglass Academy II and Wadleigh Secondary School in Harlem in independent and collaborative inquiry on the history of their community, including the history of education in Harlem. Since 2013, students have completed a range of projects on the history of their school building (as they are located at Wadleigh), other schools in Harlem (including Harlem Prep, an independent school that operated in Harlem from 1967 to 1975), and a range of other topics of interest to students including community activism, segregation, curriculum, and artistic expression.

Youth Historians have shared their work in presentations to peers, teachers and friends, as leaders of walking tours on Harlem’s history for current and future educators, and in digital exhibits in development at this site.




Youth Historians is motivated by youth participatory action research projects that make history their focus. YHH recognizes the rich intellectual and personal growth that studying the past can bring young people, but also values the ways that a collaborative, multi-generational research project like the Harlem Education History Project can benefit from hearing the questions about the past, and understandings of the relationship between the past and the present, that young people bring.




Youth Historians in Harlem was first developed by Teachers College doctoral candidate Barry Goldenberg, with support from the Institute from Urban and Minority Education. The program receives support from the Zankel Fellowships and the Duques Social Justice Fellowship at Teachers College.  



Youth Historians work takes various forms, including after-school, summer-intensive, enrichment program, and other contexts. Across all contexts, we maintain a commitment to four key principles:

Student-centered: We build from youth interest and questions in the YPAR tradition, while focusing on supporting students’ holistic development. Not only do students conduct research, but have space to process their learning of challenging history in challenging times.

Place-based in Harlem:  The program is focused on Harlem, both because it is a rich locale for historical inquiry and an important site in US, African American, and African diasporic history. We also focus on the particular opportunities for place-based learning, reflecting on how students learn about and make meaning in the places where students live, go to school, and/or traverse each day.

Students as experts: The program cultivates venues in which students can share their work with multiple public audiences, so that their developing expertise can be recognized and valued.

Past and present – The program engages students in historical inquiry, which is both launched by and connects to questions about the present day. Exploring the relationship between past and present is a key part of the program’s effort to encourage students’ historical literacy.




Achieving Success at Harlem Prep

By Robert Randolph and Isaiah Armstrong

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This is about a selected group of students and how they struggled differently before they enrolled into harlem prep, how they were introduced to the school and how they strived once they enrolled into harlem prep. Although each student has a differnt story, together, these oral histories show that Harlem Prep made a signficant difference in their lives in similarly powerful ways.


What Made Harlem Prep Successful?

By Christopher Brooks and Ibrahim Ali

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This exhibit argues that the most effective way to teach students is how the way Harlem Prep did it: through a bond and mutual respect between teachers and students, specific teaching strategies. Also that it is different from the way students are taught in normal public schools in New York City (i.e., not too strict but still rigorous). This exhibit will focus on the teaching that had happened in the classroom that was accepting of everyone and the various approaches Harlem prep took to effectively teach.