Education of Black Children in 19th Century Albany

Albany School for Educating People of Color

AfricanFreeSchoolWhile looking for something else, I came across something very interesting on the Albany County, NY webpage. It was a document titled The Struggle for Education of Black Children in 19th Century Albany.

“Albany Common Council laws were rigid in their allowances of land and financial aid for schools for ‘children of color,’ so leaders in the black community decided to use their own land and places of worship for this purpose.

“In 1811, Benjamin Lattimore [Sr.] purchased a lot on Malcolm Street (now known as Broad Street) from Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, the widow of
Alexander Hamilton. On this lot, the first ‘Albany School for Educating People of Color’ was established.” Other schools followed. The article documented the work of Lattimore, Thomas Paul Junior, and John Quincy Allen.

“By July 1845, a new public elementary school house for black children was built at 37 Chestnut Street at a cost of $830 to the city. The Wilberforce School, named after a British abolitionist, became the only public school that black children could attend until 1873, when the law was changed to accept them into the Albany Public School system…

“The Wilberforce School closed in 1873, after desegregation of New York State schools. It was renamed School 16 and was located where the Empire State Plaza is currently located. In 1906, the school was moved to the Pine Hills neighborhood and is now the Pine Hills Elementary School.”

This was a fascinating piece of local history I had not come across. School 16 was torn down in 2005 and replaced by the current Pine Hills Elementary School, which my daughter attended from first through sixth grade.


I went to the New York State Department of Education website to retrieve current data about the Albany City School District.

In the 2020-2021 school year, the most recent data provided, I found this:



HISPANIC OR LATINO   – 1,613 (20%)
WHITE – 1,565 (19%)
MULTIRACIAL – 553 (7%)
Yet the Census data for 2020 notes that the population breakdown for the city of Albany is 52% white, 26% black, and 7% Asian. Hispanics, who can be of any race, are 10% of the population.
Albany has 98,617 people (2020 Census), 11.9% of which were under 18 but over 5, or about 11,735 children of school age. The Albany City School District had 8,610 kids.  
One of the quirks of Albany is that it has long had several nonpublic schools.  There are data for this that my computer won’t open, but one can infer the trendline. A bit of irony, I think.
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